If you’re looking for a challenging American classic read with beautiful, striking and dark imagery, this is the book for you.
✨ I read this as a super interesting TBR swap challenge with booktuber Shaun Holt (He reads so, so many classics! Check out his reviews!). ✨
House Made of Dawn – The Plot
“House Made of Dawn” by author N. Scott Momaday is the story of Abel, an American Indian. We come to know from the beginning Abel feels like a stranger in his small town, Walatowa, because even though his mother was from there, he didn’t know who his father was. His mother dies when he is young so his real connection with everything there remains his grandfather Francisco.
One night, Abel inexplicably kills a man. He is caught and stands trial. He gets a 6 years conviction and we return to him after 7 years, while he is in a relocation program in Los Angeles. After so long in jail, he feels lost:
“Now, here, the world was open at his back. He had lost his place. He had been long ago at the center, had known where he was, had lost his way, had wandered to the end of the earth, was even now reeling on the edge of the void. The sea reached and leaned, licked after him and withdrew, falling off forever in the abyss. And the fishes…”“House Made of Dawn”, N. Scott Momaday
I struggled a lot with this book. I actually had to revisit it in order to write something about it. Though it’s a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, I couldn’t see it. Whenever that happens, I just assume I am at fault for not understanding genius writing. It may be just so, but the fact remains I struggled a lot with it.
…On the Plot
I feel the plot is basically non-existent. The book is beautifully written, but it just sums up various impressive scenes. Most of them are dark and they stay with you a long time – especially those involving hunting or traditional native festivities. The scene when Abel kills a man is terrifying and really, really well written!
An actual plot is, however, very tricky to spot. I had a better time with it on my second read. I could better identify the basic idea of the novel. The first time around, I just felt lost. Should I read it a third time?!
…On the Timeline
The timeline isn’t linear and I am not familiar with this type of writing very much. Though it makes things interesting, it also confused me very, very much.
…On the Characters
I didn’t grow to care about any of the characters. I wasn’t invested in their story at all. I barely understood who was the narrator most of the times. Two characters stood out to me as the most interesting: Francisco, Abel’s grandfather and father Olguin, the village priest. They had more substance than other supporting characters and I actually enjoyed learning about their story.
All the characters have a complicated relationship with women. They admire their outside beauty, but don’t genuinely engage with them. All interactions involving women in this novel seem summaries to skip over. “Nothing important about them” is the message I feel the author was sending.
Abel, the main character, remains somewhat of a mystery to me. I am sure that this was on purpose. A lot of his actions go unexplained, including the actual killing. I loved how he comes back to the reservation and seems to integrate there by the end. That gave me a wholesome feeling, but, overall, I didn’t like him. I wasn’t able to get into his head, to understand him and that is important for me.
…On the Dialogue
The characters’ interactions are another part that annoyed me. All characters felt so enveloped in their own thinking, they weren’t aware of the outside at all. Conversations didn’t seem to make a lot of sense and they always ended very abruptly.
N. Scott Momaday is an American Indian as well. His writing felt genuine, powerful and striking. I am not familiar with American history to possibly understand what has become now of the relationship between American Indians and the rest of the people living in America at the moment. It seems really complicated and this book doesn’t shed more light to any of that.
I feel this writing meant to make us understand there is mystery, beauty and savagery that goes along with the American Indian people. It is better to take it as is, accept there are some things you may just not ever be able to grasp.
Not a book I loved, but I was not at all sorry I read it. It took me out of my comfort zone and I guess this is what I actually meant to do with this TBR Swap challenge.
The imagery in this book is wild and vivid, I am sure that even if the writing is intricate and challenging, the powerful scenes in it make up for everything!
Some Quotes to Give You a Feel of the Book
“Children have a greater sense of the power and beauty of words than have the rest of us in general. And if that is so, it is because there occurs—or reoccurs—in the mind of every child something like a reflection of all human experience. ”“House Made of Dawn”, N. Scott Momaday
“In the white man’s world, language, too—and the way in which the white man thinks of it—has undergone a process of change. The white man takes such things as words and literatures for granted, as indeed he must, for nothing in his world is so commonplace. On every side of him there are words by the millions, an unending succession of pamphlets and papers, letters and books, bills and bulletins, commentaries and conversations. He has diluted and multiplied the Word, and words have begun to close in upon him. He is sated and insensitive; his regard for language—for the Word itself—as an instrument of creation has diminished nearly to the point of no return. It may be that he will perish by the Word.”“House Made of Dawn”, N. Scott Momaday
“I prayed. He was going home, and I wanted to pray. Look out for me, I said; look out each day and listen for me. And we were going together on horses to the hills. We were going to ride out in the first light to the hills. We were going to see how it was, and always was, how the sun came up with a little wind and the light ran out upon the land. We were going to get drunk, I said. We were going to be all alone, and we were going to get drunk and sing. We were going to sing about the way it always was. And it was going to be right and beautiful. It was going to be the last time. And he was going home.”“House Made of Dawn”, N. Scott Momaday
✨✨✨The book is available on Goodreads here✨✨✨
✨✨✨✨✨Did you read this book? Did you like it? Let me know!✨✨✨✨✨