Picks and Pans Review: The Grass Dancer
updated 08/08/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT
•originally published 08/08/1994 AT 01:00 AM EDT
A multigenerational tale of love and loyalty written in musical, incantatory prose, Dancer is the story of Red Dress, a beautiful Dakota Sioux warrior woman who is brutally murdered in the 1860s, and Ghost Horse, the sacred clown who, the day after her death, marries her spirit. "You will see the world," he says, after eating a plum and placing the pit in his bride's mouth. A spiritual pact has been drawn—the dead watch over the living, and the living honor the dead.
And so when Ghost Horse is slain in battle a year later, his wife remains forever "hitched to the living, still moved by their concerns." In chapters as complete as short stories, the descendants of Red Dress and Ghost Horse each tell their tales of being visited in dreams by their ancestors. Novels told in multiple points of view often become diffuse, but these voices swell with cumulative power. The author, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux, has borrowed from their tribal art of storytelling to create a narrative that will haunt readers—and perhaps give them pause to check the sky for ancestors of their own. (Putnam,$22.95)