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The Death of Jim Loney (Contemporary American fiction) Paperback – November 3, 1987


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Paperback, November 3, 1987
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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary American fiction
  • Paperback: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reissue edition (November 3, 1987)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140102914
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140102918
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,410,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"An undying story told with the austerity of Camus's The Stranger, of a wounded soul seeking to become whole."
-Ivan Doig

"The Death of Jim Loney is an American classic."
-William Kittredge

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

About the Author

James Welch is the author of the novels Winter in the Blood, Fools Crow, for which he received the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, an American Book Award, and the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, The Indian Lawyer, The Death of Jim Lonely, and most recently, Killing Custer: The Battle of the Little Bighorn and the Fate of the Plains Indians. He attended schools on the Blackfeet and Fort Belknap reservations in Montana, and he graduated from the University of Montana, where he studied writing with the late Richard Hugo. Until recently, he served on the Montana State Board of Pardons. He lives in Missoula with his wife, Lois.
--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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Customer Reviews

4.3 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By vava63@wildmail.com on July 24, 1999
Format: Paperback
Having read Fools Crow I was aware that James Welch has a wonderful way with words. However, I was unprepared for this book - it was like sitting in the head of the principal character, Jim Loney. I found myself so involved that I was willing Jim to come out of his predicament in one piece before I reached the back cover of the book. I don't want to give too much of the plot away, but I went through a roller-coaster of emotions reading this book. It brought to mind some people I knew, but I think that it was most poignant because I thought, 'a flame extinguished even before it had enough time to burn bright... at last he seems to have found some happiness.... why didn't they try harder to save him....why did he give up so easily, etc. etc.'It's a stark and wonderful story....read it!!!
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful By LaLoren on July 27, 2001
Format: Paperback
Reading this, I could not help making comparisons with the play, "Death of a Salesman." While James Welch may not appreciate his story of a half-breed American Indian being compared to a play about a very white, middle-class male, I found my reaction to both very similar. Despite the sense of doom, from the very beginning, I found myself foolishly hoping, as I did with Willy Loman, that Jim would latch on to one of the opportunities offered him, and change his fate. At the same time I knew that Jim, like Willy, was a finished product by the time I'd met him, and that simply changing locations (or jobs) would not make any real difference. Of course, Willy was more a product of his own choices, while Loney is more a product of other peoples'disregard. This is where the story of the white man and the Indian diverge.
Welch is an excellant writer. This book is concise and neat. Very little is extraneous or superfluous to the story. There are a couple of small flaws, however. While he does an excellent job of portraying the feelings and emotions of Loney's sister, I thought he did not do as good a job with his white girl friend. To me she came off just a bit one-dimensional, but then, it is often difficult for a male writer to explain the female side of a relationship. I also thought he could have done away with some of the explanations at the end regarding Indian alienation from the white culture, and Officer Painter's sudden realization of Loney's "plan." Perhaps Welch didn't trust in his own abilities to bring this out within the story, but he had already done an admirable job, and it didn't require repetition.
All in all, I would recommend this book very highly. You will probably end up, like I did, reading it in one night, and then wishing that you hadn't finished it so quickly, so that you would still have it to look forward to.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Ronald Scheer on August 12, 2009
Format: Paperback
While the central character of this short novel, Jim Loney, is stricken with a loss of direction and purpose that suggests a death of the soul itself, the characters surrounding him are themselves unmoored and drifting in their own ways. Jim, cast adrift early in life as a throw-away child of an Indian mother and white father, believes that his life would take on meaning if only he knew more about his background. But being a "half-breed" merely deepens the confusion about his identity. His older sister, Kate, with a beltway job in Washington DC tries unsuccessfully to jump start his life, and partly as a result, begins to doubt that most Indians can be rescued from what amounts to a debilitating inertia.

Meanwhile, Jim's sometime girlfriend, Rhea, on the lam from an upper middle-class family in Dallas, has taken a teaching job in the northern Montana town of Harlem, where the story takes place, and abruptly quits in the middle of the school year to go back to Texas or to Seattle, she doesn't know where, and to do what, she isn't sure either. And a town cop, recently relocated from the Bay Area of California, decides after a bedding a few of the local women that small town life in the back of beyond is not to his liking. It is the late 1970s, in that period of post-Vietnam, pre-Reagan vagueness about national purpose and identity, and Jim Loney's lonely 35-year-old life settles sadly into an alcohol-soaked oblivion that drifts finally into an inevitable and violent ending.

Clearly and beautifully written, but without the humor in Welch's previous "Winter in the Blood," this novel is a melanchly portrayal of isolation and loss. And identifying with the central character, readers are likely to feel that they are watching a loved but frustratingly detached friend gradually slipping away.
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7 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 16, 2000
Format: Paperback
Ýt is a compeling novel with unique descrpýtýons of a modern Native American who is caught between his past and present.Jim ,a half- breed with a blurry past, is struggling with self-identification.While trying to reinvent his lost identity, Jim is offered help from people who love him.However,neither social relations nor cheap wines help him get over his identity crisis.As he gets more involved with his subconcious thoughts and dreams, he starts to become a non-person in the small town of Montana.As he refuses to get help from people who try to bring order to his life, he realizes the liveliness of the land and as a result identifies with it for a regeneration of his soul. Even though,the plot is quite simple, the intriguing descriptions make the novel an extraordinary one.Inarguably,everyone can find certain points or characters to identify with himself.
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