Extra Indians Review

Extra Indians
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Extra Indians ReviewBook Review: EXTRA INDIANS
Tommy Jack McMorsey, Native American writer, Eric Gainworth's primary protagonist in his most recent novel, EXTRA INDIANS, is as complex as the compelling and dark stories he tells. A hardcore truck driver-antique collector who travels cross-country, he is a teller of tales, chronicling his traumatic experience in Viet Nam; recalling the sad life and death of his much-loved Native American war buddy, Fred Howkowski; and describing in astounding detail important events experienced on his excursion, trucking from Texas to Minnesota to find, among a meteor shower, one single falling star upon which to wish.
Early on, in coming face to face with McMorsey, one can easily imagine that it is a kind of madness which drives him on in his desperate quest to find a magical falling star, but Gansworth is masterful in realistically drawing a character whose behavior can be more fairly assessed and understood as symptomatic of a broken, but otherwise kindly and decent man, destabilized by overpowering and destructive events in his life, most of which occurred during his early, formative years.
McMorsey reminds one of a tragic character in a Greek play when it becomes apparent that he has the extraordinary capacity to see more and understand the impact of what he sees on those around him. This sets him apart from others in his disjointed and dangerous world. But this keen, almost superhuman vision becomes a curse. Once having witnessed unspeakable violent events, particularly the carnage in Viet Nam and the shocking spectacle of the decomposed body of Fred Kowkowski in a cheap Los Angeles flophouse, he is unable to rid his mind of images associated with them. This inability to free his soul of past horrors, then, becomes a kind of tragic flaw, one which limits his capacity to think clearly or take proper action in times of crisis. The abandonment of his beloved Native American adopted son at a time when the young man needed his love and support is an example.
Noteworthy, in this extraordinary novel, is the manner in which Gansworth brilliantly constructs multiple plotlines and yet avoids being caught up in the mere mechanics of writing. A poet, he describes the footsteps of the ill-fated, Japanese woman he meets "among the exhaust tubes jutting from the landscape hill..." as looking like "small, hard deer prints... which came and went in every direction."
And finally and importantly, Eric Gainworth pays tribute to all the "extra people"--the poor whites, Native Americans and African Americans-- who, because there seems to be no safe space where they can flourish or escape being snatched up in order to take up arms against invisible enemies who pose no threat to them or the country where they struggle even during peaceful times.
Gainsworth also pays tribute to the natural world when he takes careful notice of the beautiful trees planted along landfills near truck stops. Says the narrator, perhaps speaking about the highway department, "Guess they figure no one is going to notice the smell seeping from them in all the diesel clouds."
EXTRA INDIANS, is a thing of beauty, even during its darkest moments. It succeeds as a legitimate written work of art partly because Gainsworth is so deeply involved in the lives of his characters, experiences their moments of despair and their broken dreams. It may be, as well, that this novelist is able to understand the depth of human suffering that would urge a man on to wish on a moonbeam in a jar, or a flimsy and broken birthday candle, even a shooting star in Minnesota.
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