Where the Dead Sit Talking
2018 NATIONAL BOOK AWARD FICTION FINALIST
Set in rural Oklahoma during the late 1980s, Where the Dead Sit Talking is a stunning and lyrical Native American coming-of-age story.
With his single mother in jail, Sequoyah, a fifteen-year-old Cherokee boy, is placed in foster care with the Troutt family. Literally and figuratively scarred by his mother’s years of substance abuse, Sequoyah keeps mostly to himself, living with his emotions pressed deep below the surface. At least until he meets seventeen-year-old Rosemary, a troubled artist who also lives with the family.
Sequoyah and Rosemary bond over their shared Native American background and tumultuous paths through the foster care system, but as Sequoyah’s feelings toward Rosemary deepen, the precariousness of their lives and the scars of their pasts threaten to undo them both.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Brandon Hobson’s novel is far from your average coming-of-age story. Where the Dead Sit Talking follows 15-year-old Cherokee boy Sequoyah, who’s placed in a foster home in a small Oklahoma town in the ’80s. Physically and emotionally scarred, Sequoyah has a jaundiced view of the system and his aloof foster parents. His disturbing preoccupations with death and violence give his narration an unnerving, edge-of-sanity unreliability. That disquiet only increases when he meets fellow foster child Rosemary, whose emotional damage matches his own. Hobson tells the duo’s story with a lived-in authenticity that’s darkly poetic and hard to shake.
The latest from Hobson (Deep Ellum) is a smart, dark novel of adolescence, death, and rural secrets set in late-1980s Oklahoma. After his mother is jailed for drug charges, 15-year-old Sequoyah becomes the foster child of Harold and Agnes Troutt, a middle-aged couple already fostering 13-year-old George and 17-year-old Rosemary. Sequoyah shares a bedroom with the quirky George, who sleepwalks and sometimes communicates via handwritten notes, and bonds with Rosemary over their shared Native American heritages he is Cherokee, she Kiowa. As the pair grows close, Sequoyah falls for Rosemary's charm and fantasizes about both hurting and becoming his foster sister ("We shared no physical attraction but something else, something deeper. I saw myself in her."), who has a history of self-harm. Sequoyah also learns of Harold's illegal sports bookie business from his foster siblings, and the lure of Harold's hidden sacks of rolled hundred-dollar bills, tucked safely in a backyard shed, tempt all three children with the possibility for trouble, excess, and freedom, which drives the novel's second half. Hobson's narrative control is stunning, carrying the reader through scenes and timelines with verbal grace and sparse detail. Far more than a mere coming-of-age story, this is a remarkable and moving novel.