Green Grass, Running Water

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

Four old Indians have escaped from a mental hospital and are on their way to fix up the world. They call themselves the Lone Ranger, Ishmael, Robinson Crusoe, and Hawkeye, and their companion is the trickster Coyote. There is some confusion over whether they are men or women. The director of the hospital, Dr. Hovaugh, believes that their disappearances occur with startling regularity relative to natural disasters such as the Yellowstone fire of 1988. He sets out with a coworker to catch them before another disaster occurs.

While the old Indians’ revisionist retelling of how the world began makes up one strand of the plot, in the other main line of the story King explores the lives of five Indians whose relationships intertwine through either blood or romantic ties.

Alberta works as a university professor and enjoys her independence and the attentions of both Lionel and Charlie. Though she has no desire to marry either man, she wants to have a child. Charlie, an attorney whose father was an actor in Western films, works for the company whose dam is blocked by Eli, Lionel’s uncle. Eli has moved into his mother’s cabin, which sits in the path of the dam, and refuses to move. Lionel accidentally fell from grace as a university employee and now sells televisions and thinks he may someday return to his studies. Latisha, Lionel’s sister, runs the Dead Dog Cafe, has three children, and has survived an abusive marriage.

As the...

(The entire section is 570 words.)