There There

There There Summary

There There opens with incisive commentary on the historical legacy of colonialism and, more specifically, symbols like the Indian head. Once this context has been established, the novel officially commences, telling its story through a wide range of diverse Native voices. Tony Loneman is the first narrator, a young Native man living in Oakland. Tony has suffered throughout his life from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and lives with his guardian Maxine, whom he loves. Over the rest of Part I, entitled Remain, other main characters are introduced, with each section told by a different character's narrative voice. These include: Dene Oxendene, a filmmaker on a quest to tell urban Indian stories; Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield, an older woman taking care of her three great-nephews, who reminisces about her childhood in Oakland and on Alcatraz Island during the Indian uprising; and Edwin Black, a young man struggling with obesity and depression upon failing to find a job after graduating his Master's program and moving back in with his mother.

In Part II, Reclaim, Orange further develops the plot as told by a varied set of voices, introducing: Bill Davis, Edwin's mother's boyfriend struggling to keep up with the times as he ages; Calvin Johnson, who owes Octavio money for a drug bust; Jacquie Red Feather, Opal's half-sister who struggles with alcoholism to reconcile a life of loss and pain; and Orvil Red Feather, one of Jacquie's grandsons in the care of Opal, who learns about his Native identity entirely through YouTube. Each of these characters has different relationships to their Native identity, but they all struggle with the diverse legacies of colonial racism and violence. As they tell the stories, a sinister plot develops: a plan to rob the Big Oakland Powwow and steal the prize money.

In its second half, There There picks up the pace and builds suspense. Interlude opens with another critical essay, this one blurring the lines between historical commentary and fictitious plot. The narrator describes the importance of a powwow to Native life and laments the tragedy that will occur at Oakland's. The preparations for that tragedy continue as Tony prepares the bullets for the theft; Calvin takes a job on the powwow planning committee; Dene interviews Calvin for his storytelling project; Jacquie accepts a ride back to Oakland for the powwow from her former rapist, finally deciding to repair the rift with her grandsons.

Part III, Return, dives deeper into the web of characters that Orange so masterfully weaves. He first returns to Opal, who reminisces about all the tragedies of her life as she drives her UPS mail truck route. Next, a new narrator, Octavio, tells his own family's story of loss and spiritual connection. The plot is further entangled by the stories of Daniel Gonzales, Octavio's cousin who 3D prints the guns they will use to rob the powwow; Blue, who has searched for her Native family all her life, ultimately fleeing an abusive marriage and ending up on the powwow planning committee; and Thomas Frank, the janitor at the Indian Center who has a love for alcohol equal only to his love of drumming at the powwow.

Finally, the climax of the novel arrives in Part IV: Powwow, as every character converges at the Big Oakland Powwow. Orange tells the story of that fateful event through each character's eyes, as they experience fresh tragedy together with their loved ones. It is here that the disparate voices of the novel intertwine at last.