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God's Country Book Review

Phyllis Rhodes

It is this reviewer's opinion that Percival Everett's God's Country is nothing short of a mini-masterpiece.  Set in 1871 and narrated by a very unlucky cowpoke, Curt Marder, the book shows the good, bad, and ugly aspects of life in God's Country (the proverbial Wild West).
The story opens with marauders burning Curt's ranch, kidnapping his wife, Sadie, and committing the ultimate indiscretion of shooting his beloved dog.  Curt, a spineless coward and ardent racist, does nothing to stop them and watches from a distance as his home is destroyed.  He hires Bubba, the best tracker in the area (who happens to be African American), to lead him to the culprits (and subsequently Sadie) in exchange for half the ranch.  It is in the journey to save Sadie that Curt constantly witnesses and benefits from Bubba's selfless acts of benevolence and humanity, but is blinded by racism, stupidity, and ignorance to realize the errors of his ways.  Instead, he consistently lies, steals, and cheats, largely driven by greed and his own self-interests. 
Mr. Everett is an excellent writer having pulled off such a spoofy odyssey.  Through his words, the reader experiences the sights, sounds, and smells of hard living in hard times.  It is a relatively short novel that is richly saturated with dark humor and unforgettable, wonderfully imagined characters with names like Wide Clyde McBride, Pickle Cheeseboro, and Taharry whose speech impediment causes him to preface every word with "ta," thus earning him his unusual name.  The book even includes a "cameo" appearance of "injun killin'" George Cluster and bank robbers reminiscent of the James/Younger Gang. 
This book touched on so many issues (the "isms") on a number of levels.  Through the misadventures of Curt and Bubba, the author covers the institutionalized racism and social injustices that Native, Asian, and African Americans endured.  There are painful scenes of an Indian tribe massacre and a lynching of an innocent black boy.  The sexism exhibited against women in the West was evidenced in the Jake and Loretta storylines, and the emerging socio-economic strata (classism) between western landowners was touched upon as well.  However, for me, the most powerful messages were saved in the last few pages of the novel's surprise ending.  Without revealing too much, I thought it was clever in the way that the author paralleled Bubba's "dream" to live freely without fear or judgment to MLK's desire to be judged by the content of one's character and not by skin color.  Curt comments that Bubba's dream did not sound like much of a dream summed up the underlying arrogance and indifference toward his fellow man that resonated throughout the story.
This is the second book I have read by this author and I have not been disappointed yet.  I am looking forward to picking up his other works as time permits.
The Nubian Circle Book Club rating for God's Country is 4.5 stars out of 5 stars.  Please contact us at if you should have any questions or comments.