Green Grass, Running Water by Thomas King is a lyrical exploration of the lives of a group of characters living in the small Canadian town of Blossom. Written in 1993, the novel is notable for its portrayal of Native Americans struggling with their identities in the twentieth century. What makes King’s novel unique is the way its structure mirrors its content; all of the Native American characters are grappling with the balance of tradition and modernity. King echoes this conflict structurally by employing an alternating narrative. The framework of the novel is provided by an unseen narrator who interacts with the trickster god, Coyote. These interchanges are based on the recollections of four elderly Native Americans of mythical origins and indeterminate sex.
Interspersed with these mystical segments are the stories of the Native American characters in contemporary Canada. The stories progress in a linear fashion using a much more realistic style. King’s achievement is significant in several ways. First, the mystical statements are a written representation of the oral traditions so important to Native American culture and its perpetuation. Secondly, they establish a stylistic difference from the realistic segments that bear more similarity to traditional White literature. As the story begins to climax, the mythical elements and the realistic elements overlap, and King mirrors that blending in his writing style.
King's stylistic and structural achievements meld with the sociological aims of King’s story in a way that suggests a blurring of the lines between form and content. While the novel contains more than a few indictments of White culture, the novel’s structure makes it clear that the novel is pro-Native American rather than anti-White. By the novel’s end, several of the main characters have found a path in their lives that will allow them to embrace both tradition and modernity.