Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Silko, Leslie Marmon. Ceremony. 1977. New York: Penguin Books, 2006.
Reviewed by J. d’Artagnan Love
Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko documents the life of Tayo, a veteran of the Vietnam War. Tayo, who lives on a Native American settlement, suffers from severe shell-shock. In order to heal, he must complete a ceremony initiated by Betonie, one of the medicine men of his settlement.
Betonie begins the ceremony and it is up to Tayo to finish it. Interestingly enough, in the introduction to the book, Silko writes about how the writing of this book was her own healing ceremony. At the time that she began writing Ceremony, Silko was suffering from depression and homesickness. She and her family had moved far from her home and she was having a difficult time adjusting to the change. Silko suffered physically from depression with headaches and fatigue. By writing the novel, Silko was able to heal herself emotionally, and physically.
I have a deep love and appreciation for this novel. I was fortunate enough to read it at a time in my life when I was in need of healing myself. I found solace in Silko’s narrative, plot, imagery, characters, and poetry.
This novel is truly a masterpiece (and I’m not just saying that because of my own attachment to the characters and story). Silko weaves poetry into her prose and makes the theme of hybridity quite visible. Often, the poems take the shape of their subject—a poem about warriors is shaped like a downward pointing arrowhead, for example.
The plot is thickly layered and nonlinear. It holds readers’ attention and all the pieces come together quite nicely by the end.
Ceremony’s characters are deep and unique. I couldn’t help but feel compassion for all of them, even the antagonist(s). This is one of Silko’s gifts to her readers. She drives home the point that we are all connected, we are all imperfect, and our choices affect everyone. She humanizes the antagonists to break down the wall between “us” (the supposedly “good”) and “them” (the supposedly “evil”).
As I said in my last post, these reviews are not meant to judge those of you reading them. They are simply a way for me to express what value the books I read hold for me. In this case, Ceremony holds immeasurable value.
5 darts out of 5
Bookshelf Project Status: KEEP