(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Bernadette Lefthand’s death is the first incident reported by her shocked and grieving sister, Gracie. The girls’ father and Gracie at first assume that Bernadette’s death had come as the result of an automobile accident, a common cause of death among young Indians. It turns out, however, that she has been brutally murdered and that the police are looking for Bernadette’s husband, Anderson George.

The heart of the novel is the story of Bernadette’s life on the Jicarilla Apache reservation centered around Dulce, in northern New Mexico. She has always been a beautiful and popular girl, and as a teenager she emerged as a champion dancer at powwows held throughout the Southwest. As a student at the Indian school in Santa Fe, she fell in love with a handsome young Navajo named Anderson George. After graduation, the two married, and Bernadette gave birth to a baby boy.

Gracie Lefthand’s account of her sister’s life focuses on many of the trips the two girls took with Anderson and his brother Tom. They visited their late mother’s sister in the Taos pueblo and enjoyed a strong sense of family warmth with their aunt and her family. With the George brothers, they went to rodeos on the Navajo reservation, and after one such adventure had a memorable stay at an old but newly refurbished hotel in Gallup. The four young people also visited a friend of Bernadette on the Hopi reservation, where during a festival they were again made to feel...

(The entire section is 575 words.)