The Death of Bernadette Lefthand

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Winner of two regional book awards and overwhelming praise, this haunting first novel about the mysterious death of a young Indian dancer is a stunning portrayal of the spirit and struggles of the Southwest's native peoples.

Even today, amid the sere hills of Arizona and New Mexico, the Navajo believe witchcraft is at work. Some suspect it is the unseen force behind the brutal murder of Bernadette Lefthand, a young woman renowned on the Jicarilla Apache reservation for her ...

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Overview

Winner of two regional book awards and overwhelming praise, this haunting first novel about the mysterious death of a young Indian dancer is a stunning portrayal of the spirit and struggles of the Southwest's native peoples.

Even today, amid the sere hills of Arizona and New Mexico, the Navajo believe witchcraft is at work. Some suspect it is the unseen force behind the brutal murder of Bernadette Lefthand, a young woman renowned on the Jicarilla Apache reservation for her beauty and graceful dancing. Others suspect Bernadette's hard-drinking husband, Anderson George, who has inexplicably disappeared. Gracie, Bernadette's teenage sister, tries to make sense of the vortex of doom in which the young couple seems to have been caught, while Bernadette's Anglo employer, Starr Stubbs, and an unnamed stranger reveal a tale of betrayal and tragedy.

In prose rich with the rhythms and colors of the desert highways, Ron Querry--a member of the Choctaw Nation--paints a vivid portrait of the lives of contemporary Native Americans. A riveting tale of passion, obsession, and destruction, The Death of Bernadette Lefthand is a compelling novel about heritage, family, and the dark magic of the twisted soul.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Querry, a Choctaw, chooses Arizona, his present home, as the setting for this excellent first novel. It is a landscape peopled by Natives, where Navajo, Apache and Hopi reservations jostle up against one another, literally and figuratively. The book deals with the murder of its eponymous heroine. In the process it becomes a fine vignette of modern Indian existence, giving readers a genuinely felt view of the pow-wows, dances, rodeos, alcoholism, intertribal rivalry and poverty that are the facts of life for many Native Americans. At the beginning of the novel, Bernadette is found dead and her drunken husband, Anderson George, has disappeared. The story of their tumultuous union is told in flashback from the points of view of Gracie, Bernadette's sister, and Starr Stubbs, a white woman who knew her but may have been less than a friend. With his compelling storytelling, Querry leads the reader methodically and inexorably back in time (to witness the final moments of Bernadette's short life) and deeper into the darkness of the witchcraft that destroys both her and Anderson. The innocence of Gracie's youth and her anguish in relating her sister's life story work like a magnet to pull the tale along. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Bernadette Lefthand got killed, ``but it wasn't in no car wreck,'' and the police are looking for her Navajo husband. The story instantly pulls its reader into the events surrounding a young Pueblo Indian's bizarre and brutal murder. Set on the Navajo and Jicarilla reservations, this novel explores the effects that poverty, alcoholism, and witchcraft have on the communities. Gracie, Bernadette's younger sister, and Starr Stubbs, the white woman for whom Bernadette kept house, tell most of the story. The chapters flip-flop between the narrators' points of view, cleverly exposing the contrast between Indian and white perspectives and their cultural differences. This excellent debut by a promising new novelist should appeal to anyone interested in the Southwest and Native Americans.-- Joanne Snapp, Randolph-Macon Coll., Ashland, Va.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553375367
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 7/1/1995
  • Pages: 228
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.50 (d)

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Sort by: Showing 1 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 19, 2000

    NOT Illustrated, but a fine book, nonetheless

    For reasons I cannot fathom, the publisher describes this novel as 'illustrated.' It is not. But it's a very fine book, nonetheless, and you owe it to yourself to read it.

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