Extra Indians Book Review

By Larry P. Madden

extra indians book coverEric Gansworth’s (Onondaga) novel, "Extra Indians," follows many paths, and by most anyone's standards they are rocky.  The novel opens with the mild mannered truck driver, Tommy Jack McMorsey, driving to his lonely getaway to observe meteor showers where he encounters a lost tourist traveler searching for treasure.  Although he’s on an innocent quest for solace, McMorsey finds himself thrust into a life-altering series of events.  While the interaction with the tourist is brief, it serves as a foreshadowing example of how McMorsey’s best intentions sometimes have complex ramifications.

Combining fictional events, real world circumstances, and characters from earlier novels, Gansworth has the liberty to know and walk among his story.  In previous novels, the Texan McMorsey adopted a war buddy’s orphaned son who he came to know when he visited the Tuscarora Indian Reservation in New York State. In “Extra Indians,” his now adult son returns to the community of his ancestry and learns more of both McMorsey’s affair with a married woman and his biological father’s suicide.

The book discusses issues of children being exchanged in an attempt to provide them with a better life, which has long been common among Native people of many tribes.  The same is true of the pain Indian warriors have brought back home after fighting for the American government.  Yet in Gansworth’s skilled hands these subjects find resonance with non-native readers unfamiliar with the nuances of American Indian life.

This reviewer was kept intrigued by Gansworth’s plot and the stitching that holds the story together, but I was not fond of the main character’s flaws and inability to cope with certain circumstances.  Still the fact that the pages kept turning certainly points to the author's skill to create a story that will keep you coming back.  Just as the old adage of still waters run deep, McMoresey’s serene exterior hides a seething undercurrent of guilt and regret.  It’s the curiousness created by this inner conflict that held this reviewer’s attention.

I’d recommend this book to readers both familiar with Gansworth’s earlier works, as well as a stone cold start, as the story is explicit enough to carry the reader through.  This story weaved around dreams from young man, to Veteran Warrior, to a love dreamed that became a reality.  Yet dreams dreamed often end different than dreams lived, and under Gansworth’s pen, T.J. McMoresey lives out life events from long ago that return to collect a long overdue debt.

Larry P. Madden is an enrolled member of the Mohican Nation Stockbridge-Munsee Band of Wisconsin. He is a recent graduate of College of Menominee Nation.