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The Death of Bernadette Lefthand by Ronald…
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The Death of Bernadette Lefthand (1993)

by Ronald B. Querry

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The Death of Bernadette Lefthand by Ronald B. Querry is another recent re-read. This one I originally read while a graduate student at UCLA. Bernadette was an Apache married to a Navajo and the book opens with her sister being called to claim her body.

The story then is about the brief life and subsequent death of Bernadette. It's told from a number of points of view: the sister, her white friend who is bored out of her gourd since the move to New Mexico, and ultimately Bernadette herself.

It's a dark, angry tale filled with unhappy and impoverished characters who have no means of escape or betterment. For those are trying to make the best of things, there's the pow-wow. For those who don't or can't or feel trapped, there's alcohol. ( )
  pussreboots | Apr 10, 2015 |
The voice of the narrator was too ingenuous (Gracie is 16) and it is easy to tell this is not the natural voice of the author--nor would it be natural for any person. She describes everything, including things that would be so ordinary they would be an accepted background by the character (e.g. "she opened the torn screen door"--if Querry wants to impress us with the poverty, he should use descriptive statements not narrated by the characters). Similarly, too often this narrative strays into explanations of Indian culture, powwows or rodeos.
The sections about Rounder and Starr Stubbs are irrelevant to the tale, and don't even add to our understanding of events, except for brief sections where Starr describes some interaction between Bernadette and her husband, or lets us see how placid and good Bernadette was.
This is not "a riveting tale of...the dark magic of the twisted soul", as the cover promo avers, but a flat recitation, step by step, of a woman's murder by a mentally sick acquaintance. ( )
  juniperSun | Dec 28, 2011 |
Writing about the Southwest Indian Americans, the book is written with depth and power. Tony Hillerman heralded Querry's book as "the best novel of its type since Silko's Ceremony. It's a beautiful, moving book." ( )
  marinty | Oct 30, 2009 |
A disturbing tale of two sisters and the circumstances that lead up to the death of the older, much-loved sister. Bernadette and her younger sister live for pow-wows. Her sister becomes involved with Anderson Geroge, a man who turns into something monstrous. Whether because of his alcoholism or another man practicing Navajo witchcraft on the couple, an ill wind blows against them and Bernadette ends up murdered. The town and her younger sister must come to terms with the death of a beloved member of the community. ( )
  Sistahluck | Jun 1, 2006 |
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One of man's peculiarities is that he requires "reasons" for the occurrences of events. One of the manifest "functions" of belief in witchcraft is that such belief supplies answers to questions that would otherwise be perplexing--and because perplexing, disturbing.
Clyde Kluckhohn, Navaho Witchcraft (1944)
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For Elaine
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I'm just barely sixteen years old, but sometimes I feel a whole lot older than that.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0553375369, Paperback)

Winner of two regional book awards and overwhelming praise, this haunting first novel about the mysterious death of a young Indian dancer is a stunning portrayal of the spirit and struggles of the Southwest's native peoples.

Even today, amid the sere hills of Arizona and New Mexico, the Navajo believe witchcraft is at work. Some suspect it is the unseen force behind the brutal murder of Bernadette Lefthand, a young woman renowned on the Jicarilla Apache reservation for her beauty and graceful dancing. Others suspect Bernadette's hard-drinking husband, Anderson George, who has inexplicably disappeared. Gracie, Bernadette's teenage sister, tries to make sense of the vortex of doom in which the young couple seems to have been caught, while Bernadette's Anglo employer, Starr Stubbs, and an unnamed stranger reveal a tale of betrayal and tragedy.

In prose rich with the rhythms and colors of the desert highways, Ron Querry--a member of the Choctaw Nation--paints a vivid portrait of the lives of contemporary Native Americans. A riveting tale of passion, obsession, and destruction, The Death of Bernadette Lefthand is a compelling novel about heritage, family, and the dark magic of the twisted soul.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:11:36 -0400)

Winner of two regional book awards and overwhelming praise, this haunting first novel about the mysterious death of a young Indian dancer is a stunning portrayal of the spirit and struggles of the Southwest's native peoples. Even today, amid the sere hills of Arizona and New Mexico, the Navajo believe witchcraft is at work. Some suspect it is the unseen force behind the brutal murder of Bernadette Lefthand, a young woman renowned on the Jicarilla Apache reservation for her beauty and graceful dancing. Others suspect Bernadette's hard-drinking husband, Anderson George, who has inexplicably disappeared. Gracie, Bernadette's teenage sister, tries to make sense of the vortex of doom in which the young couple seems to have been caught, while Bernadette's Anglo employer, Starr Stubbs, and an unnamed stranger reveal a tale of betrayal and tragedy. In prose rich with the rhythms and colors of the desert highways, Ron Querry--a member of the Choctaw Nation--paints a vivid portrait of the lives of contemporary Native Americans. A riveting tale of passion, obsession, and destruction, The Death of Bernadette Lefthand is a compelling novel about heritage, family, and the dark magic of the twisted soul.… (more)

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