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The Indian Lawyer (Contemporary American Fiction) Paperback – October 1, 1991


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Product Details

  • Series: Contemporary American Fiction
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books (October 1, 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140110526
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140110524
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 5 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,954,314 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Blackfoot Indian and respected lawyer Sylvester Yellow Knife is torn between a need to identify with his Native American roots, a chance at a Congressional seat and a blackmailing scheme of which he is the target. This "has all the elements of a classic success story--including a fall from grace," said PW . "A convincing story of a man who almost loses his values and his soul."
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From School Library Journal

YA-- Sylvester Yellow Calf, a Blackfeet Indian lawyer, is a nontraditional character whose past and present worlds collide and then threaten to destroy him. Elements of fear are introduced in this thoughtful, evenly paced novel, not in the form of blood or violence, but rather by virtue of wrong decisions, unforeseen consequences, and the dread of loss. Yellow Calf is a fully realized character, a complex, self-made man who overcomes the adversities of parentage and poverty. He is on the verge of an unplanned political success when his very human, normal behavior in a seemingly insignificant incident sets in motion a fall from grace. Welch shifts the story's focus back and forth between a state prison and Helena, where Yellow Calf has created his own version of the American dream. His relationships with several different women add to the rich texture of the novel and provide the seeds for his undoing. As events threaten Yellow Calf's security, a fascinating third world unfolds: the reservation childhood he has tried to leave behind. It is from his past that Yellow Calf eventually finds the truth about himself and the strength to do the right thing. An absorbing psychological tale that should fascinate mature readers.
- Carolyn E. Gecan, Jefferson Sci-Tech, Alexandria, VA
Copyright 1991 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Customer Reviews

4.2 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Carl A. Schreiber on March 2, 2001
Format: Paperback
By the second page, I was drawn into this strange world of prisons, Indian Reservations and Helena, Montana (circa 1990).
The story is about two men, Sylvester Yellow Calf--Native-American-ex-high-school-basketball-star-turned-lawyer and Jack Harwood--college-educated accountant with a penchant for felony crimes and doing hard time. Caught inbetween them is Jack's wife, Patti Ann Harwood. Sylvester is an up-and-coming trial lawyer with his sites set on the traditionally Democratic congressional seat in western Montana. He also sits on the parole board that is reviewing Harwood's case. Harwood manages to convince his wife, Patti Ann, into orchestrating an accidental 'meeting' with Yellow Calf. He wants her to get close to Yellow Calf so that he can blackmail him to use his position on the Parole Board to get Harwood released early.
Things take a turn for the worst, when Patti ends up fulfilling her husband's wishes too well. Suddenly, she is caught between the man she is married to and the man she is falling in love with. Harwood and Yellow Calf, too, are caught in a deadly dance of blackmail and power plays.
All in all, an excellent book. The only downside is that you know it eventually ends and the windows on these characters that are so well-fleshed out will be closed. Small price to pay, though, for such a compelling story.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Briana Malmquist on October 28, 2003
Format: Paperback
The Indian Lawyer is a great book for many different reasons. I think the book holds a lot of emotional impact for many different people and you don't have to be a fan of James Welch or Montana Literature to enjoy the book. I recommend anyone who just wants a "good read" to read this book- I guarantee you won't be able to put it down!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 17, 1999
Format: Paperback
I couldn't put the book down once I started reading. The novel painted an intricate web of characterization between prison life, growing up on a reservation raised by grandparents, the contrast between native and white cultures, politics, and confused romances. The plot was provoking, the story well written and cast fully human. I put the book down feeling exhilerated, wanting to explore Mr. Welch's other works.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Frank A. Stephenson on May 10, 2009
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jim Welch was a classmate of mine back in Montana (I'm originally from Helena and I spent 33 years unaware that not everyone owned four sets of clothes - depending on the season, two sets of tires, ice scrapers, snow shovels, and insulated boots), so naturally I tend to be biased towards the late Mr. Welch's books.

Nonetheless, books about Native Americans have always been amongst my favorite reads ever since "Stay Away Joe" hit the shelves some 50 years ago. The late Tony Hillerman was also one of my favorite authors. Sherman Alexie is wonderful in his self-depricating way as well.

And speaking of Sherman, it occurs to me that Jim Welch was essentially ahead of his time with his half-dozen or so novels about his own experiences having grown up in Browning, MT, heart of the Blackfoot reservation.

Most people tend to root for the underdogs, and the Native American people of this country have been underdogs for nearly 200 years. In the late 19th and all through the 20th Century, the White Man's law has been used to put them down and keep them down.

In Jim's "The Indian Lawyer", the protagonist tries to turn the tables and, in certain instances, does so with a vengence. You cannot help but cheer him on. But honestly, this is not Jim's best novel per se, so I gave it three stars; some of you may give it more. If so, read his other novels when the fancy strikes you.
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