Only once in a great while does an author create a story so startlingly distinctive that the readers perceptions are forever changed. In Native, through fluent narration and honest emotion, William Haywood Henderson brings vivid life to the contemporary West of ranchhands and drifters.
In a Wyoming mountain valley between the Wind River Range and the Absarokas, pickup trucks crowd the curb outside the only bar in town, couples dance the two-step, and cowboys ride up through the badlands to check on the herd in its high-country grazing. In this isolated, tightly knit community, which is often barren and violent, comradeship among men is vital to survival, but love between men is the ultimate transgression.
Blue Parker, a twenty-three-year-old ranch foreman, has spent most of his life in this town. He is a classic cowboy, careful and reserved, living deep within the myth of the Old West. He treasures the immense solitude of the mountains, yet he begins to yearn for the love of a kindred spirit. When he hires a new ranchhand, Sam, his longing seems about to be fulfilled.
But then Gilbert, a Native American from the nearby reservation, passes through town and dances his way among the men. Gilbert fancies himself a modern-day berdache, a man neither male nor female, who traditionally would have held a place of honor in his tribe. An ambiguous and painful figure, he draws Blue and Sam into his struggles to reclaim ancient customs that have been subverted or destroyed.
With a sure sense of place and a keen sensitivity to the unspoken yet unbearable tensions that shape its characters, this superb debut offers a subtle portrait of three men caught between past and present, in a majestic landscape that transcends both loneliness and love.
What people are saying - Write a review
NATIVEUser Review - Jane Doe - Kirkus
A Wyoming ranch-hand represses his homosexuality until he meets a drifter and then a Native American berdache, or wise man, and finds his own identity in the New West—in a first novel that mixes ... Read full review
NativeUser Review - Not Available - Book Verdict
Set in the mountainous and remote Wind River country of Wyoming, this contemporary coming-of-age novel explores gay sexual mores in the conservative, small-town American West. Although women find him ... Read full review