When I was notified that I was approved for the ARC of The Only Good Indians I did a literal happy dance! Stephen Graham Jones is one of my favorite authors, and this title specifically has easily been my most anticipated in 2020.
I purposefully didn’t read too much about the plot of the novel, as I wanted to be completely surprised. Stephen’s narratives always unfold so organically, and I wanted to experience that as I read the book. I can most definitely say that I was not expecting this storyline, not even a little bit, and in turn, I fell madly in love with the unfamiliar territory. Underneath such a culturally rich story is a network of truths, stories, fears, history, heartaches, and hopes that the majority of us don’t have access to, and yet Jones still manages to invite the reader into the heart of the novel, like an old friend. This is just another example of his talent for authentic storytelling—they never really read like fiction—but instead, truths told by the characters themselves. This, coupled with the dark and always slightly foreboding nature of the work, is what I consider mastery of horror. Horror is personal. It’s the things that we can imagine, but don’t want to, that ultimately have the tightest grip on our psyche.
There were many times while reading that I started feeling that heightened sense of alertness that precedes terror. Usually, I wouldn’t describe being scared in this manner, though I feel that because of the nature of this story, it’s very much relevant. Just another example of feeling like we’re a part of the story just as much as the characters we’re following. There’s an investment in SGJ novels; they pull you in a way that ensures that the book will linger long after the last page. At some point I rooted for every single character, this was one of those instances in which I wanted everyone to make it through to the end, which made many events even more harrowing.
This book is heartbreaking, unsettling, and yet—simultaneously—strangely sentimental. It’s one I find I’ll likely revisit, as I feel there’s more lurking within the pages of this diverse and entrancing novel.