So clearly, it is an award winning novel and I shouldn't be surprised to give it 5 stars. I also read American Boy a few years back and loved that, so definitely I am a Larry Watson fan. However, for some reason I had it in my head that this was a long cowboy western (kind of like McMurtry's Lonesome Dove) and so had kind of been avoiding it. It's not like that. This is a really great book. And it's also really short. So, I was wrong on a couple of counts.
The setting and rough plot (racist relationship between Native Americans and Whites/lawyers and sheriffs and rape) reminded me of The Round House. Cleary, Erdich has read this and most obviously was influenced by it in her writing.
I love the gray area of this novel. Watson walks a fine line between passing judgment and empathizing with his characters predicaments. He quite obviously never condones rape or murder, but he makes us understand how hard it is for Wes to not do so. In conjunction we see David's sexual and moral development: he has to learn for himself the complexities of adult interaction. "Looking in the dead bird's eye, I realized that these strange, unthought-of connections-sex and death, lust and violence, desire and degradation-are there, there,deep in even a good heart's chambers."
Overall a great read; poignant, compelling, entertaining and interesting.