Book Review

This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. Staples

Genre | Contemporary Fiction
Page #s | 208
Publishing Date | March 2020

On an Ojibwe reservation called Languille Lake, within the small town of Geshig at the hub of the rez, two men enter into a secret romance. Marion Lafournier, a midtwenties gay Ojibwe man, begins a relationship with his former classmate Shannon, a heavily closeted white man. While Marion is far more open about his sexuality, neither is immune to the realities of the lives of gay men in small towns and closed societies.

Then one night, while roaming the dark streets of Geshig, Marion unknowingly brings to life the spirit of a dog from beneath the elementary school playground. The mysterious revenant leads him to the grave of Kayden Kelliher, an Ojibwe basketball star who was murdered at the age of seventeen and whose presence still lingers in the memories of the townsfolk. While investigating the fallen hero’s death, Marion discovers family connections and an old Ojibwe legend that may be the secret to unraveling the mystery he has found himself in.

Set on a reservation in far northern Minnesota, This Town Sleeps explores the many ways history, culture, landscape, and lineage shape our lives, our understanding of the world we inhabit, and the stories we tell ourselves to make sense of it all.

Goodreads

A dreamy mystery set in a small Ojibwe reservation town in Michigan, This Town Sleeps dives into intergenerational violence, trauma, and stunted potential through the eyes of a young gay Indigenous man. I was totally engrossed by Marion’s story, and though I might have wished for a happier ending, the one that was given was hopeful enough, and true.

The mystery at the center of the book is not so much why a young man was murdered ten years ago so much as why this tragedy is haunting (literally and figuratively) Marion. An Indigenous nonbeliever, he allows Native spirituality into his life to reveal the reason a revenant dog keeps connecting him to deceased Kayden Kelliher, culminating in a really lovely cathartic basketball game (words I never thought I’d say).

This book is deliciously ambiguous like the best books with magical realism, full of coincidences that can’t be explained and spectral figures that disappear when someone else enters the room. “Spectral figures” might sound creepy, but it’s not. Instead, the whispers of the past and of death serve to highlight the tragedy that seeps through the stories of every person in Geshig.

Throughout the book, we increasingly get sections or whole chapters from perspectives of people who are connected to Marion and Kayden; they all struggle with family, loss, and disappointment. The whole town is traumatized. Marion himself keeps trying to leave and start a new life for himself, living on the outskirts of his old home but always returning to childhood haunts. But the pull of place is impossible to resist, as is his relationship with Shannon. Despite the fact that Shannon is closeted and struggling with some intense internalized homophobia, Marion can’t keep away. It’s a theme, and one that is crystalized in the final pages when we hope he will break free of his roots but despair that he will lose something if he does. There are no easy answers here, but the story surrounding the questions is beautiful.

Who Would I Recommend This Book To?

This is a book for people who want to read fictional stories about modern Indigenous experiences.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Come chat books with us on Roar Cat Reads’ discord.

0 comments on “This Town Sleeps by Dennis E. Staples

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: