When Will returns to Medicine River, he thinks he is simply attending his mother's funeral. He doesn't count on Harlen Bigbear and his unique brand of community planning. Harlen tries to sell Will on the idea of returning to Medicine River to open shop as the town's only Native photographer. Somehow, that's exactly what happens.
Through Will's gentle and humorous narrative, we come to know Medicine River, a small Albertan town bordering a Blackfoot reserve. And we meet its people: the basketball team; Louise Heavyman and her daughter, South Wing; Martha Oldcrow, the marriage doctor; Joe Bigbear, Harlen's world-travelling, storytelling brother; Bertha Morley, who has a short fling with a Calgary dating service; and David Plume, who went to Wounded Knee. At the centre of it all is Harlen, advising and pestering, annoying and entertaining, gossiping and benevolently interfering in the lives of his friends and neighbours.
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Thomas King, who is of Cherokee and Greek descent, is an award-winning novelist, short story writer, scriptwriter, and photographer. His first novel, Medicine River, won several awards, including the PEN/Josephine Miles Award and the Writers Guild of Alberta Award, and was shortlisted for the 1991 Commonwealth Writers' Prize. It was also made into a CBC television movie. Green Grass, Running Water, his second novel, was shortlisted for the 1993 Governor General's Award and won the 1994 Canadian Authors Award for fiction. His highly praised short story collection, One Good Story, That One, was a Canadian bestseller, and his collection of Massey Lectures, The Truth About Stories, won the 2003 Trillium Book Award. He has also written three acclaimed children's books: A Coyote Columbus Story, Coyote Sings to the Moon, and Coyote's New Suit. Thomas King lives in Guelph, Ontario, and is an Associate Professor of English (teaching Native literature and creative writing) at the University of Guelph.From Publishers Weekly:
First novelist King, a professor of American and Native American studies and himself of Cherokee, Greek and German descent, sets his gentle, deliberate and ultimately engaging comedy about a group of contemporary Native Americans in a small Canadian community. Will returns to Medicine River, a town just outside a Blackfoot reserve, to bury his mother and reconsider his past. In short order he finds himself very much caught up in the present, opening a photography studio and playing on the local basketball team. His best friend and sometime coach, Harlan Bigbear, quickly convinces him to get involved with pregnant, unwed (and rich) Louise Heavyman. Will visits with Martha Oldcrow, the marriage doctor, and grapples with David Plume, just back from the protest at Wounded Knee. He meets other wanderers, from Joe Bigbear, Harlan's brother, a world traveler and storyteller par excellence, to Bertha Morley, who leaves the reservation to try her luck with a Calgary dating service. King's deceptively simple comedy is an intriguing portrait of Native American life today.
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