The Dance Boots by Linda LeGarde Grover (2010: University of Georgia Press. ISBN 978-0-8203-3580-3)
A Duluth author wins the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction. There’s some immediate hubbub in the local newspaper. Some book signings around town (we only have three, soon to be two, bookstores in this town so the signing tour will be short). Maybe an appearance at the Duluth public library. A lecture at the local tribal college. A reception at the university where Linda teaches. And what then? Is it likely that this fine collection of prose will morph into the next Cohen brothers movie? Doubtful. It’s not that kind of collection. More likely, the renowned author will return (like the judge writing this review) to her “real” job; teaching American Indian Studies at the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Linda will likely, despite her success, continue to work on her fiction, essays, and poems in her “spare” time. That’s the reality of a writer’s life in 21st century America. As prestigious as it may be, winning an award given in honor of one of America’s premier storytellers won’t likely change how Professor Grover goes about her life. And you know what? I bet she’s fine with that.
To the book.
That’s the singular word that kept spinning over and over in my mind as I read this very compact collection of linked short stories. Set in and around Duluth and a mythical Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota, Grover weaves these tales in print as if she is standing before her Ojibwe kin and rendering stories (as the indigenous people have done for millennia) aloud; in the oral tradition of the ancient Greeks and other extinct cultures. The author’s command of language is indeed stellar and her talent is amazing. Whereas I am a very linear writer (perhaps my greatest flaw as an author) Grover writes in a graceful story arc. Her stories do not necessarily have a beginning, an end, or even a moral. Storytellers such as Grover, whose fiction style approaches prose poetry in pattern and texture, are rare. Treasure this book. Your only disappointment will be that the book ends too quickly.
My one major beef? Linda, as great a writer as you are, you should have come to me for details concerning hunting rats at the grain elevators: Shovels are far too slow; hockey sticks are much more effective. This I know. Just don’t ask me how.
A wonderful gathering of tales, this collection truly deserves every fiction reader’s attention. 5 Stars out of 5.