Reviewer: Alan Chin
Publisher: Grove Press
At the turn of the twentieth century, Shed is an orphaned half-Indian bisexual boy who lives and works at a hotel/brothel in the tiny town of Excellent, Idaho. Despite being surrounded by a loving, if eccentric, surrogate family at the hotel, Shed has a growing need to find an identity among his mother’s Indian tribe. Setting off alone across an unforgiving landscape, Shed encounters a procession of extraordinary characters along the way. Although he learns a great deal about the mysteries and traditions of his Indian heritage, it is not until Shed returns to Excellent and witnesses a series of brutal tragedies that he attains the wisdom that catapults him into manhood.
Author Tom Spanbauer creates a vision of the Old West unlike anything seen before. The characters are unique, rebellious, and brimming with life. He draws the reader into each scene with a distinctive voice, and each scene becomes a single glowing strand that the author weaves into a beautifully crafted web that is both uplifting and heartbreaking.
The story is an unsettling vision quest. It reads like experiencing a dream that keeps getting more and more outlandish, yet more evocative. It is a tale of turning knowledge into understanding, and one boy’s march to manhood that all readers can relate to. I placed this book on my “favorites shelf” and I will return to it again and again.