Wandering Stars

Knopf. Feb. 2024. 336p. ISBN 9780593318256. $29. F
This follow-up to Orange’s debut novel, There There, delivers a considerably different reading experience than its progenitor. Moving away from that earlier novel’s vast, intricately woven tapestry of interconnections, Orange narrows his focus to the lineage and immediate family of There There’s Orvil Red Feather, beginning with his great-great-great-grandfather in the 1800s and continuing until 2018, where most of the narrative takes place, examining the legacies of the Sand Creek Massacre and the Carlisle Indian Industrial School. But it isn’t just the novel’s construction that changes shape. Orange forgoes the explosive tragedy that punctuated his first novel and instead documents its lingering distension. It’s a potent and intimate pivot, one that builds in power as he mines the abiding grief of childhood’s passage, particularly within the contexts of Indigenous history and contemporaneity. This second work lacks the sense of sprawl that invigorated Orange’s debut, and there are stretches in the central section that can feel pulled too thin and blunted by repetition, leaving its three parts a bit wobbly in balance. But, as was the case with There There, he builds to a memorable crescendo.
VERDICT Orange smartly avoids the trap of attempting the same trick twice, tweaking his approach to story and structure and once again showcasing his ability to deliver characters with clear, complex interiority.
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