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The Absence of Angels: A Novel (American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series)

3.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0806127149
ISBN-10: 0806127147
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Albert (Alley) Hummingbird, the shy hero of this imaginative and entertaining first novel, is a mixed-blood Indian who must contend with a father who abandoned Nez Perce ways to marry a rather daft white woman, with an uncle haunted by the ghosts of pilots he sent to their deaths during WW II and with Death itself, which is treated as a character. To save newborn Alley from the grim reaper, his grandfather, the source of his Native American values, "took a disappointed Death by the wrist, put Him in the passenger seat of the 1947 Plymouth" and drove to a far-off mission, "where he left Him chained like a rabid dog." The boy will encounter Death again in pet burials and his sister's secret retreats to the graveyard. The opposite sex also causes much heartache for Alley, who feels the need to make everything right for every woman he knows. Skipping lyrically between his hero's childhood and young adulthood, Penn has produced a delightful work of magic realism reminiscent of John Nichols's The Milagro Beanfield War . Flashbacks abound, and the reader is never quite sure whether Alley's wise grandfather is alive or merely living in his imagination. Himself of Native American and white ancestry, the author limns with insight the struggles of modern, urban, often mixed-blood Indians to forge a coherent identity.
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Library Journal

Penn's first novel has all the usual pain-inducing ingredients identifiable with any Bildungsroman. These are mixed together well with elements of Native American myth, a beautifully evoked Southwestern landscape, and humor. Memorable characters like wise girlfriend Sara, an even wiser Grandfather, and, surprisingly enough, Death, accompany Albert "Alley" Hummingbird on his journey through young adulthood. In the process, Penn poignantly reveals the difficult personal politics of identity facing this young man of Native American and WASP descent. Just recently awarded the 1994 North American Indian Prose Award by the University of Nebraska Press, Penn certainly promises to reach a wide audience with this novel. Recommended especially for collections emphasizing Native American literature.
- Faye A. Chadwell, Univ. of South Carolina Lib., Columbia
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
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Product Details

  • Series: American Indian Literature and Critical Studies Series (Book 14)
  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: University of Oklahoma Press (February 15, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0806127147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0806127149
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,773,644 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard D. Cook on February 5, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
have, as a friend of mine, who isn't said, "Have some garlic in your blood and disposition of a drunkin sailor" then don't even go here.
I happen to have all the qualifications, which made a wonderfully delightful and easy read for me. If the book hadn't been written the year I was born, I'd sworn that Mr. Penn had written it about me. Pickled with the straight forward, sometimes dry, other times laughingly surprising, Old Grandfather thoughts and conversations, this book has many lessons to teach, even non-Natives about the focuses one should consider, when facing everyday life challenges. Yes, a very good read!
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Format: Paperback
This is a wonderful story. Calling all film makers -- especially native ones -- this would make a hell of a screenplay. But readers and writers will love the book. The tone of the story is superb, the author writes of painful things without selfconsciousness and explores the experience of growing up a mixed blood Indian in ways that make it real for any audience. The characters are memorable, the story of the love between Alley and Sara will touch your heart and the descriptions are poetic. Wise Grandfather will make you laugh. Get to know that special place known as "The Absence of Angels" -- you won't regret it. Penn is an award winning author also, whose other novel (Killing Time With Strangers) won the American Book Award and is also a must-read.
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Format: Paperback
I couldn't finish it. I really tried, as I like to keep an objective mind about topics on which I know little, but reading this was an exercise in masochism. Avoid at all costs, particularly if you have an affinity for the subject.
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Format: Paperback
I have purchased this book in support of this author who is currently being blackballed due to lack of free speech at his University. Free speech is not free speech when actions are taken to curb it once it is used. It seems that many Americans have forgotten, or just don't understand, the importance of free speech in a democracy.
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