Book Review: 'Where The Dead Sit Talking'

Nov 26, 2018

Brandon Hobson, a member of the Cherokee Nation Tribe, lives in Ponca City, Oklahoma, and teaches writing. His novel Where the Dead Sit Talking was a finalist for the National Book Awards. It’s a coming of age story set in rural Oklahoma in the late 1980s.

Sequoyah is the 15-year-old only son of a poor alcoholic mother who was sentenced to time in prison. In children’s services, the only real constant in the boy’s life is Liz, the social worker assigned to his care. When Liz places Sequoyah in the home of Agnes and Harold Troutt, he is lonely, adapting to another new school, and navigating his new foster siblings-- Rosemary, a charismatic artist who seduces all around her to bend to her will; and George, a younger obsessive genius with whom Sequoyah shares a room.

While Agnes Troutt prays, Harold runs an illegal gambling business in the basement. They are not dangerous and are the best foster parents Sequoyah has ever had. Rosemary and Sequoyah bond over their shared native experiences and previous foster care parents.  

Hobson is a spare writer, with details typical of small towns on the plains. The scenes speak to themes of transience and the realities of disenfranchised populations left behind by accepted norms of society.

Where the Dead Sit Talking is a powerful testament to one young Native American’s will to survive his lonely existence. Sequoyah’s community and experience is one we all need to know, and Hobson delivers the young man’s story in a deeply profound narrative.