Book Review: “There There” by Tommy Orange

there thereThis stunning debut novel is about many things; family, loneliness, poverty, technology, substance abuse, and violence, but mostly it is about the lives of the urban American Indian, a group so underrepresented in media it almost feels like most people didn’t even think they existed. The sprawling cast of characters in this book have all wound up living in Oakland and mostly near or below the poverty line. Their lives are hard, and we quickly come to learn they pretty much always have been. That doesn’t mean they are completely miserable, as there are moments of beauty, innocence, and joy scattered throughout the book, but it doesn’t shy away from the fact that life for Native Americans today is fraught with perils that are all too easy to become ensnared by. The beautiful prose and exceptional character development will make you feel like you really know these people, and in turn get to know more about their culture, but regardless of your background you will probably find at least someone or something you can directly relate to here, for no matter how different life may be for some, this book often reveals the commonality of the human, and especially the American experience. As the various characters’ stories begin to reveal their well-plotted connections and build to a shocking conclusion, I found myself racing to the climax while hoping it would never end. Tommy Orange has written a masterpiece debut and firmly established himself as a writer to watch. This is destined to win many awards and wind up atop many year-end best lists. ★★★★★ – Sean Farrell


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★★★★★ = Excellent | ★★★★ = Very Good | ★★★ = Good | ★★ = Fair | ★ = Poor

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