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Winter Counts: A Novel von David Heska…
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Winter Counts: A Novel (Original 2020; 2020. Auflage)

von David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Autor)

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3942951,207 (3.91)11
Titel:Winter Counts: A Novel
Autoren:David Heska Wanbli Weiden (Autor)
Info:Ecco (2020), 331 pages
Sammlungen:Gelesen, aber nicht im Besitz
Tags:Fiction, Native Americans, South Dakota, drugs


Winter Counts von David Heska Wanbli Weiden (2020)

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David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s Winter Counts is largely set on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in South Dakota where Virgil Wounded Horse offers a measure of justice and revenge to crime victims who are ignored by both their own tribal council and local law enforcement officers. In simple terms, Virgil is the local enforcer — and he is good at his job.

It is, of course, impossible not to compare a novel like Winter Counts to those of writers like Craig Johnson, Tony Hillerman, Anne Hillerman, C.J. Box, and others who cover much of the same territory. The good news is that David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s debut novel proves that he can hold his on with the best of them. Several members of the club have, in fact, endorsed Winter Counts because of its authenticity, cultural insight, and riveting storytelling. Of all of them, I think that C.J. Box put it best:

“I’ve been waiting most of my life for this book without realizing it. Winter Counts is a knowing, authentic, closely observed novel about modern-day Lakotas that rings absolutely true, warts and all. The sense of place is breathtaking and raw. It’s a hell of a debut.”

Now, I don’t know about you, but I usually don’t give much credence to author blurbs, figuring that they are more often than not just another case of two writers scratching each other’s back. But now that I’ve read Winter Counts for myself, I could not agree more with the blurbs splashed all over the novel’s back cover.

Virgil Wounded Horse, who as a kid was badly bullied by some of the same people he sees every day on the reservation, knows what it’s like to feel helpless and afraid. That is probably one of the reasons he is always ready (and why he enjoys doing it) to give an unforgettable beating as final warning to those who would otherwise not suffer a thing for their crimes on the reservation. But then Virgil’s nephew Nathan overdoses on the suddenly available heroin he was given for free at the reservation school and nearly dies. Game changer…now it’s all very personal and it’s going to take more than an “unforgettable” beating to satisfy the intense anger that Virgil Wounded Horse is filled with.

With the help of Marie Short Bear, his ex-girlfriend, Virgil tracks the dealer to Denver, but that’s where things get complicated enough to limit his options. Virgil learns that the man he is looking for is only the link into the reservation for some other very powerful people looking for a new market for their product — and that much more powerful men than him are already looking for a way to put the heroin dealers out of business. Unfortunately, Nathan is about to become a pawn in a scheme that could easily get them all killed.

Bottom Line: Winter Counts (winter counts were the Lakota calendar system) is a genuine thriller, one of those coming-of-age stories in which the kid nearing adulthood will be lucky to survive the process. Weiden is one heck of a storyteller, and it’s hard not to tear right through this one. But the novel is so much more than that. Weiden is himself an enrolled citizen of the Sicangu Lakota Nation, and he has filled Winter Counts with cultural insights and history that combine to make it all seem terribly real. His explanation of how and why both the American and Tribal legal systems all too often fail Native Americans is a heartbreaking one. Fiction, though, often spreads the truth more readily than nonfiction accounts of the same situation. Perhaps that is the best thing about books like Winter Counts and Craig Johnson’s more recent Daughter of the Morning Star. Read novels like these and tell your friends about them. Maybe someone will finally listen. ( )
  SamSattler | Oct 19, 2021 |
An intense, compelling, fascinating read. The stakes are so high from minute one, and the issues about drug trafficking, jurisdictional issues with justice, and the complications of finances on reservations are made abundantly clear without coming across as patronizing or particularly pain-porn in tone. I had a hard time putting this down, especially in the last third, and my heart was racing the entire time! Definitely recommend for folks wanting to read more books by Native authors—I think it’s deeply approachable, and grabs you in the opening chapter and doesn’t let up the whole time! ( )
  aijmiller | Sep 8, 2021 |
A generic crime noir plot distinguishes itself by being set on the Rosebud reservation of the Sicangu Lakota. Virgil Wounded Horse is a broke and always down-on-his-luck vigilante for hire in a place where law enforcement does not always deliver justice as criminals fall into the cracks between tribal and federal jurisdictions. He's hired to look into/run off some new drug dealers in the area, but the case becomes personal when a relative falls victim to their fentanyl-laced heroin.

Virgil is not much of an investigator; his toolbox is limited to slowly meandering around asking, "Have you seen this guy?" and clumsily breaking into places that rarely yield any clues. But even as he blunders through the case it is heartening to see him slowly rebuild his life by re-establishing and deepening connections with family, community, and his cast-aside spirituality. ( )
  villemezbrown | Aug 31, 2021 |
i'm not sure this quite qualifies as a mystery or a thriller or even just a novel either, but whatever it is, it is very very very well done. he writes well, he tells a good and engaging story, he has full and interesting characters, and he has a larger point that he's making. it's really everything that i look for in a book. it's not perfect, and there are a few instances where the writing wasn't as good or he stumbled just a tad, but in general, this is quite impressive, especially for a first book.

he manages to weave so much information about native history and lakota heritage, while not feeling like he's giving you a lecture or taking away from the story. he gives you this information in narration, in dialogue, in ceremony, in a book someone's read, in so many different ways. so it never feels like too much or is distracting. it's quite something.

i love that this is about the plot - can virgil stop heroin from coming into the rez, is nathan being set up or is he dealing pills - but it's even more about how virgil comes back into his native identity and heritage (and about lakota traditions more generally). the naming ceremony at the end for virgil and nathan made me cry.

there are many reasons that this book works so well, and many ways this book can appeal to different kinds of readers. a pretty tremendous first book. a real feat. ( )
  overlycriticalelisa | Aug 18, 2021 |
Lakota Country Noir
Review of the HarperAudio audiobook edition, released simultaneously with the Ecco hardcover (August 2020)

Winter Counts is the first novel from David Weiden of the Sicangu Lakota, and it takes place in a fictionalized version of the Sicangu Rosebud Reservation located in South Dakota. The title comes the Lakota calendar system of winter counts where the dramatic events of each year are represented pictorially.

Although the overall story is fictionalized, author Weiden does stress in his Afterword that the issues of the lack of Federal enforcement for sexual assaults and abuse and the consequent need for tribal enforcers to mete out some level of punishment is a real one. So the vigilante profession of the protagonist Virgil Wounded Horse is drawn from a real life basis.

Weiden does an excellent job of making our enforcer Virgil out as a sympathetic character which one would not initially expect. He is the uncle of his nephew Nathan who has substance abuse issues that become progressively worse as the story unfolds, to the point where Virgil sets out to shut down the opiate drug trade in Rosebud which originates from gangs in Denver. There are several characters involved and some of them prove to be too good to be true as betrayals and twist discoveries appear.

There is also a considerable amount of Lakota history which is covered in the occasional digression that Weiden has carefully spread throughout, so the book also has the benefit of providing a good dose of non-fiction information. This includes information on the Six Grandfathers (now known as Mt. Rushmore) and a fun sidetrip to Carhenge in Nebraska.

The narration by Darrell Dennis in all voices was excellent. I hope that I'll see the return of Virgil Wounded Horse in further stories.

I listened to Winter Counts thanks to the Audible Daily Deal on February 8, 2021. ( )
  alanteder | Aug 17, 2021 |
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It is not necessary for eagles to be crows. -- Tatanka Iyotake / Sitting Bull
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Dedicated to the Sicangu Lakota people, and to my sons David (Tatanka Ohitika) and Sasha (Tatanka Ta Oyate)
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I leaned back in the seat of my old Ford Pinto, listening to the sounds coming from the Depot, the reservation's only tavern.
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