Oliver LaFarge – Laughing Boy

41SR09EZD1LComing on the heels of finishing Taylor’s Travels of Jaimie McPheeters, Lafarge delivers up for me a genuine love story as has never been as uniquely told in American literature to date. McPheeters is a love story late coming in his work, and Taylor weaves together many different plots that deliver a wonderful array of the American experience. Lafarge’s tale is uniquely Native-American and wonderfully so. I loved this book. I have said that about several other of the Pulitzers, and I am not ashamed to say it about this one. I would stack this work right up there with some of the best of the reading so far, and for the ones to come. I have truly enjoyed this project and it has expanded my appreciation of all things fiction, all things novel, and has thoroughly revived my love of reading. A task such as the one set before Drew and I on this journey I had feared would crush my love of reading under the strain of such a project, but if anything it has emboldened me to further heights I think.

I am only slightly opposed to giving a recap of the novel, and I stick to only either praise or criticism of the works we finish, but for this one I think I will retell the story briefly in order to highlight all that I loved about this book. Lafarge tells a stirringly simple story of Laughing Boy, a Navajo teen, coming of age during the Americanization of the West and of Indian culture. Lafarge brushes up against all of the evils that stem from the American involvement in Native-American life and uses much of this darkness to color our female protagonist Slim Girl, Came With War. Laughing Boy falls in love with a forbidden love, Slim Girl, who his family suspects of being an Americanized Navajo. Slim Girl was taken to American school and was changed there into a Christian. She returns to her homeland through some convoluted means and sweeps Laughing Boy away. They go away to her American village where they have an enchanting romance. Things cannot hold all of the tensions that are pulling at them through custom and culture and things get out of control. Lafarge lets us stay with them and pulls to keep this enchanting time together as long as it can hold, and its steady decline peaks very near the end of this beautiful work and his pacing is mesmerizing. Lafarge sweeps you all the way through the end of the novel, and leaves you breathless. This is a love story that rivals some of the greatest ever told, and what is remarkable is its transcendence as well as it’s very uniquely Navajo intricacies. I stand amazed at this strange and lovely little book. It is a short work, my copy only 192 pages, and its pacing early on is very meandering and soft. When it picks up near the end, you would think it would have to be jerky and swell with a fever pitch, but instead it crests more like a wave and crashed upon my heart voraciously and I struggled to keep my heart and head about myself as it rose above me. I loved it and cried when it ended as only it could. I cannot tell you how it ends, and leave out a lot of details because I want you to read it. Even if it doesn’t resolutely place itself amongst your favorite novels of all time, it will be worth the ride and will carve out a place for itself in your heart. Laughing Boy and Slim Girl are a pair that come up to Romeo and Juliet or Tristan and Isolde.


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