Winner of the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, American Academy of Arts & Letters Sue Kaufman Prize, The New England Book Award, and the National Book Foundation 5 Under 35 Honoree
A Finalist for the Andrew Carnegie Medal for Fiction, the Chautauqua Prize 2023, and Barnes & Noble Discover Book Prize
Named a Best Book of the Year by The New York Times, NPR, Esquire, Oprah Daily, and more
Set in a Native community in Maine, Night of the Living Rez is a riveting debut collection about what it means to be Penobscot in the twenty-first century and what it means to live, to survive, and to persevere after tragedy.
In twelve striking, luminescent stories, author Morgan Talty—with searing humor, abiding compassion, and deep insight—breathes life into tales of family and a community as they struggle with a painful past and an uncertain future. A boy unearths a jar that holds an old curse, which sets into motion his family’s unraveling; a man, while trying to swindle some pot from a dealer, discovers a friend passed out in the woods, his hair frozen into the snow; a grandmother suffering from Alzheimer’s projects the past onto her grandson; and two friends, inspired by Antiques Roadshow, attempt to rob the tribal museum for valuable root clubs.
A collection that examines the consequences and merits of inheritance, Night of the Living Rez is an unforgettable portrayal of an Indigenous community and marks the arrival of a standout talent in contemporary fiction.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
With his debut collection of 12 compelling and interwoven stories, Morgan Talty highlights the triumphs and tragedies of life in and around the Penobscot Indian Island Reservation in Maine. Night of the Living Rez follows the lives of families whose intergenerational traumas are amplified by drug and alcohol abuse and a glaring lack of opportunities. While it’s often as brutal as that sounds—from apathy and anger exploding into a sudden violent outburst to the quiet heartbreak of a series of miscarriages—there are also moments of humor, beauty, and poignance. Through it all, Talty paints a deeply empathetic portrait of a community in constant battle with the outside world—and with itself. Night of the Living Rez made our hearts swell and break in equal measure.
Talty's smart and gritty debut, a linked collection, poignantly overlays a boy's coming-of-age on the Penobscot reservation with a young man's present-day struggles to overcome opioid addiction and economic precarity, implying that they might be the same person in different phases of life. "In a Jar" introduces young Simpsons-watching David as he copes with an absent mother and her hard-drinking medicine man boyfriend, Frick, who earned his nickname for a habit of saying "fricken this, fricken that." His older sister, Paige, gets pregnant, stoking their mother's ire like "Homer on Bart," and the angry Frick dismisses David for being trigger shy on a hunting trip. Abandoned hunting trips recur throughout, as in "Food for the Common Cold," about a tragic episode from Frick's earlier life, and in the interstitial stories following 20-something Dee and his friend Fellis, who talk in "Get Me Some Medicine" about hunting porcupines for money. In "Earth Speak" and "The Name Means Thunder," Talty reveals more of Dee's and Paige's painful histories involving opioids and methadone; the latter story, narrated by a grown-up David, serves both as a standalone meditation on truth-telling and an elegant keystone to the collection. Talty brings an abundance of love and skill to his accounts of troubled lives. The ingenious structure and heartbreaking stories make this unforgettable.