Night of the Living Rez
How do the living come back to life?
Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy.
In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty—with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight—breathes life into tales of family and community bonds as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs.
In a collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of a Native community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction.
“Morgan Talty’s Night of the Living Rez is a beautifully crafted, raw and intimate book about youth, friendship, and family on the reservation. These stories are profoundly moving and essential, rendered with precision and intimacy. Talty is a powerful new voice in Native American fiction.”
—Brandon Hobson, National Book Award finalist and author of The Removed
“These stories took me in the same way Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son did when I first read it. The comparison here is meant in every way to praise Talty as a writer, and I’m sure I won’t be the only one who says so, partially because of his emotional precision, his stark, unflinching, droll, intoxicating style, and also because of a certain drug/addiction element at play here. But as I got deeper into the work, into the book, and came to understand these lives and this community, the further away it felt from my initial comparison with Johnson, and the more familiar it felt—our Native communities being bound by countless common threads, strengths and afflictions both—and only then did I understand the distinct brilliance of Talty’s voice as its own, and ours. I knew and felt for these people. Wanted to and knew I couldn’t help them, even as they did me. There is so much brutal, raw, and beautiful power in these stories. I kept wanting to read and know more about these peoples’ lives, how they ended up where they ended up, how they would get out, how they wouldn’t. It is difficult to be so honest, and funny, and sad, at once, in any kind of work. Reading this book, I literally laughed and cried.”
“Night of the Living Rez is a fiercely intelligent and beautifully written set of stories—a spectacularly visceral and moving account of the experience of a member of the Penobscot Nation in today’s America—as well as a wrenching meditation on family and familial dysfunction. Morgan Talty is a master of the way dependency and pain transition from one body to another; the way both separating and refusing to separate become modes of saving ourselves; and the way, for all of our failures, we never stop doing what we can to provide each other hope.”
“Night of the Living Rez is true storytelling. It’s a book so funny, so real, so spirited and vivid it brought me back to my own rez life and the people who made me.”
“Night of the Living Rez delivers stories that combine the otherworldly with the everyday in ways that startle and sing. Morgan Talty portrays Maine and his Penobscot characters in language and images both beautiful and inventive. With equal parts humor and haunting, this book will linger.”
—Toni Jensen, author of Carry
“Night of the Living Rez is an indelible portrait of a family in crisis, and an incisive exploration of the myriad ways in which the past persists in haunting the present. I loved these sharply atmospheric, daring, and intensely moving stories, each one dense with peril and tenderness. Morgan Talty is a thrilling new talent.”
—Laura van den Berg, author of I Hold a Wolf by the Ears