Friday, August 19, 2011

Book 104: Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko (Finished).

"But as long as you remember what you have seen, then nothing is gone. As long as you remember, it is part of this story we have together."

This book is a lesson in why you should listen to the recommendations by bloggers you love. Eva reviewed this book back in December. I immediately went out and bought a copy. And the book sat on my nightstand for a few months. Then Christina wrote a glowing post about it in March. I picked it up, read a few pages, then set it back down since I was not in the right mindset to read it.

It has been sitting on my nightstand for MONTHS collecting dust. When I finally picked it up, I simply fell into the book. Falling in is the best way to describe how this book just absorbed every piece of me. It didn't let me go until I closed the back cover. It was beautiful.

Ceremony is the story of Tayo, a young man who has just returned from war and is suffering from PTSD. He is struggling with his return to the reservation where he has grown up, his place in that society as someone who is half-white, half-Native American, and where he fits into the grand scheme of life.

The book just moves you effortlessly through Tayo's experiences. You are there with him as he encounters other war veterans from his reservation. They, too, seem to be struggling, but release a lot of their anger and suffering in violence and hatred. You are with him when he struggles to find a place in a family that doesn't seem to want him. And you are with him when he seeks healing from a medicine man as a last hope.

The story winds between past and present, Tayo's actions and his memories. It flows so well you cannot stop reading, absorbing the life Silko has created from words. It just...becomes a part of you as you read. You are Tayo, experiencing the life around you and the healing he must undertake. It took my breath away, made me gasp for air, and it warmed me to my very core.

It is a hard thing to describe, the power of this story. It winds in and out between different perspectives, thoughts, and emotions, but it does it in a way that makes sense. You would think that jumping forward and backward, in and out of Tayo's narrative would make you go crazy. But it doesn't. Instead, it just feels right. Our thoughts aren't really linear-they flow from topic to topic and wind their way back to where they began. This book felt like that.

(I will say it did not read like stream-of-consciousness if that makes you wary).

What I loved most was the weaving of Native American belief and practices into the realities of Tayo's life in the war and after. It is a perfect melding of two worlds with different beliefs. It made the story alive, real, and touching. It moved me in so many ways. I wish I had the words to describe the pure power and emotion this novel has.

All I can say is go get a copy and experience it for yourself. Fall into it and truly become a part of it. It is beautiful, just beautiful.

"I will tell you something about stories,
[he said]
They aren’t just entertainment.
Don’t be fooled.
They are all we have, you see,
all we have to fight off
illness and death.

You don’t have anything
if you don’t have the stories."


  1. This is a book I really need to read. My kids are going to be half white, half Native American, and so I really care a lot about these issues. In fact I think I'm going to order this on amazon right now. thanks for such a great review!

  2. Despite reading Eva's review in December, I'm sure, somehow I didn't have this on my radar! It sounds like a good one, though, so I am noting it for my list.

  3. Wonderful! Must read!!
    Great post! Great review!

  4. I read this in my freshman year at college and was surprised to find out I was one of the only people in my class to enjoy it. If you like Silko's writing, I just finished her memoir, The Turquoise Ledge, and it was the kind of book for me that I consumed very slowly and very much enjoyed it. I think I might need to reread Ceremony someday.

  5. Kate sounds a star. How cool it is to see a successful woman in a traditionally male industry. You go girl!
    venue nyc