little toy men

I give this story collection the highest number of stars.

Each story in Night of the Living Rez, by Morgan Talty, describes a different time in the life of a male resident of an Indian reservation in Maine. Some stories describe scenes from his childhood, while others are about his adulthood. The stories do not appear in chronological order; the reader must discern the order. The scenes described are always striking and fascinating, and the author includes tidbits of Native American lore and language that he remembers while growing up as a citizen of the Penobscot Indian Nation.

Here is a passage from one of the stories about the narrator’s childhood. The narrator is playing with little toy men:

“I wasn’t at play long before I lost one of my men to a gap between the stairs and the door. It was a red alien guy, and although he wasn’t my favorite, I still cared.”
—Morgan Talty, Night of the Living Rez

The writing is spare and to the point. This is its power. When the narrator says that he cares about one of his toys that isn’t one of his favorite toys, you feel a little pang. You get it. It’s still one of his toys. And the boy’s love for his toys is a precious thing, indicative of his love for the real people in his life—a wholehearted love that often dulls by the time we become adults.

This event—the toy man falling into the gap—propels the rest of the story. It feels like such a nonevent, but it’s actually quite important, having ramifications that last months.

I am astonished by the way Talty can spin such complex stories out of such simple scenes.

What do you care about, although it isn’t your favorite?