Crooked Hallelujah (Hardcover)

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Staff Reviews


The complicated bonds of three generations of Cherokee women are explored in Ford’s striking debut, a chapter of which won the Paris Review’s Plimpton Prize. At the start, Justine is a teenager rebelling against Lula, her strict Holy Roller mom. A decade later, Justine is raising her own daughter, hoping that she can give Reney a better future. Both Justine and Reney struggle with abusive men as mom and daughter move away from their Oklahoma reservation and back again, toward dreams and away from reality. Eventually the elements rebel and the family must confront tornadoes, fires, and more. Crooked Hallelujah is not quite a novel and not quite not a novel as Ford plays with style, chronology, and perspective (a heads up to you plot obsessives). One particular piece follows a lesbian couple that moves to rural Texas and have a life-threatening test; it’s a great story, but seemed ancillary to the rest of the plotline. But I actually enjoyed that chapter a lot, so I can see how the decision was made to include it – just too good to let go! Come to think of it, that’s my feeling about the whole book – I didn’t want it to end

— Daniel Goldin

This is the story of four generations of Cherokee women and their men in Oklahoma and Texas. The words are uncomplicated, all the more beautiful for their graceful, plain-spoken style. The writing is easy to love, and so are the people. We feel their strength and sorrow, the excited warmth of new romance and the hot anger of losing it. Everyone is confused about the reasons everyone else does things. Welcome to humanity, but the simplest human joys are right there for you, for anyone who can see them and try to hold on. The book is just as gorgeous as the awe-inspiring mess of being alive. It grows and deepens like life itself. Justine says, “You’ve got to keep moving, whatever you do,” and in less than 300 pages we’re moved through rich details of full people, daily survival, and love no matter what else comes. An exceptional debut!This is the story of four generations of Cherokee women and their men in Oklahoma and Texas. The words are uncomplicated, all the more beautiful for their graceful, plain-spoken style. The writing is easy to love, and so are the people. We feel their strength and sorrow, the excited warmth of new romance and the hot anger of losing it. Everyone is confused about the reasons everyone else does things. Welcome to humanity, but the simplest human joys are right there for you, for anyone who can see them and try to hold on. The book is just as gorgeous as the awe-inspiring mess of being alive. It grows and deepens like life itself. Justine says, “You’ve got to keep moving, whatever you do,” and in less than 300 pages we’re moved through rich details of full people, daily survival, and love no matter what else comes. An exceptional debut!

— Tim McCarthy

July 2020 Indie Next List


“This astonishing debut fills the imagination with vivid scenes of life in Oklahoma’s Cherokee Nation and in the oil country of Texas. Home can be hard to find, men can be forever unreliable, and poverty can be more brutal than the harsh rural landscape, but the bonds women form with their mothers, grandmothers, and daughters make life not just bearable but luminous. This is an astonishing debut novel, rich in Cherokee history and culture, full-bodied in terms of character, and as bighearted as the women it portrays.”
— Betsy Burton, The King's English Bookshop, Salt Lake City, UT

Description


It's 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and fifteen-year-old Justine grows up in a family of tough, complicated, and loyal women, presided over by her mother, Lula, and Granny. After Justine's father abandoned the family, Lula became a devout member of the Holiness Church - a community that Justine at times finds stifling and terrifying. But Justine does her best as a devoted daughter, until an act of violence sends her on a different path forever.

Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine--a mixed-blood Cherokee woman-- and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma's Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas isn't easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world--of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados--intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.

In lush and empathic prose, Kelli Jo Ford depicts what this family of proud, stubborn, Cherokee women sacrifice for those they love, amid larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture. This is a big-hearted and ambitious novel of the powerful bonds between mothers and daughters by an exquisite and rare new talent.



Product Details
ISBN: 9780802149121
ISBN-10: 080214912X
Publisher: Grove Press
Publication Date: July 14th, 2020
Pages: 304
Language: English