There There – Tommy Orange

There There by Tommy Orange

My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Received: PRH Canada
Published: 2018
Publisher: Knopf
Recommended Age: 14+
Genres & Themes: Adult, Literary Fiction, Family, Generations, Native Peoples, Modern Life, Substance Abuse, Violence


No one is lying. This truly is a necessary read. I thought it would read like a boring History textbook because the book literally starts by telling us some history so I immediately put it down. But I decided to give it a second chance, because how dare I abandon a story after a couple of pages only? I made the decision to push through that info-dumping part, but actually I didn’t have to force through anything because I really got into the author’s writing and wit quickly after and the reading began to feel actually natural.

This is not a boring old History textbook. It is more about the present and future than the past. The past is important because it helps contextualize the situation of many of the characters—helps us understand how they came to be where they are and make the decisions that they do. It features a large cast of characters that are connected in various ways, some positive and some negative. Each character tells his or her story, in 1st, 2nd or 3rd person POV. I found that interesting—how the author decided to go back and forth between characters and pick a different narration style for each.

It’s a story that may confuse you at times because one second it may seem like there is a plot—the whole robbery shebang and reuniting between people—but in fact there isn’t really since the focus is on telling one’s story and trying to break the cycle of substance abuse, violence and neglect for this and future generations. At some point I felt the need to check the book more carefully to see if there was any ‘‘based on true events’’ line because everything felt shockingly realistic and raw.

I want to give it more than three stars but I reserve my four stars to books that I find hard to put down and despite being important, this isn’t one of them. The cast of characters is much too large and the story much too short to feel a connection with many people here and understand people thoroughly. I did not spend enough time with them all. But it is still very much worth reading.


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