Cover Image: Wandering Stars

Wandering Stars

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Following the legacy of the Sand Creek Massacre, “Wandering Stars” tells the story of the family of Jude Star, a Native American who was sent to Marion Prison in Florida in 1875, and what happens to each member as the decades pass, from Jude’s prison “reforming,” language eradication, onto boarding school and brutalization, into the twentieth century and the further erasure of the culture, landing squarely into modern times and the question of modern life and the weight of being an Indian.

“There There” is one of my favorite contemporary novels of all time and I am just thrilled at this sophomore effort. I truly feel that Tommy Orange is a modern master, a writer with such a unique voice that even with only these two novels as his oeuvre, he has cemented himself into the canon. Following the Stars and the Bear Shields’s intergenerational trauma, the horror of boarding school and forced assimilation is intense and hard to read. There were several times I read a chapter and was forced to put it down so I could breathe. It felt like choking on your favorite food - I hastily swallowed it only to find that i couldn’t - and it was the most brutal decadence. Orange reminds me of Larry Brown a bit - not in voice but in the mood - his gritty detail has a lot in line with the Southern writers who shined a light on the darkness of their region, people like Barry Hannah, Brad Watson, Harry Crews. He is wholly original, I just feel like they have a lot in common in tone and down-and-dirty details.

Orange is able to move the narrative forward with poignant stream-of-consciousness, each character in the lineage has his or her own voice and describes their lot in life with such visceral and overwhelming loneliness and pain that the reader is forced to come along on this journey, a journey those of us who haven’t experienced it can barely believe it is real, but it is. This book is about seeking: God, family, purpose, reparation, understanding, equity, and really, truly questioning why a people were destroyed so fully. This book speaks to the trauma that is inflicted on an entire race of people and a lineage of heartbreak is drawn out in every paragraph as a lyrically insightful gut punch. Orange has a way of describing the world and the people within it that makes the reader feel embarrassed. You have to turn away because it makes you uncomfortable.

I love Tommy Orange’s voice and this novel, even if it did break my heart.

Was this review helpful?

I was hungry for Orange's next book the minute I finished reading There There, and it was absolutely worth the wait.

I read a lot, and I have to say it's fairly rare that I have a hard time summarizing a book. I did here. It's not because Orange's writing is unclear or the story was muddled, but rather because there is so, so much contained in these pages. Family, addiction, education, growth, trauma, healing, get the idea.

Wandering Stars is both contemporary fiction and historical fiction, It (mostly) trails a single family lineage, though it's not instantly clear how each character's lives entwine with one another. Orange's excellent first novel, There There, takes place in the shadows of Wandering Stars, somewhere midway through the generations he features. Interestingly enough, you can definitely read this independently of There There (but you really SHOULD read There There; it's an absolute triumph). It's comforting to revisit that universe in the same way while getting to experience something totally new and unique.

I hate to share anything more because the joy here really was in the discovery for me. Take the cue and wander through it. You won't regret the trip.

Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for the ARC!

Was this review helpful?

Wandering Stars takes the reader through a generational kaleidoscope of trauma, triumphs and personal journeys. Tommy Orange perfectly crafts the narratives together to build one after another. From a massacre to drug addiction, you can feel the pain within his writing. This book intertwined spiritual and reality and made it one of my top books to read for the year.

Was this review helpful?

Perhaps the greatest compliment I can give a writer is that I couldn’t read this book fast. The language is beautiful and the characters shatter the heart before giving readers a little bit of hope to mend them again.

Was this review helpful?

This is a raw, exploratory story following a family throughout time and dealing with many tough topics that have and continue to impact the lives of Indigenous peoples. It is told in chapters from different POV characters and really leans into showing the interconnectedness of people's lives. I think if you have read There, There by this author, you will also take away a lot from this story as well. It is not quite a prequel and not quite a sequel, it surrounds and expands on that story without you necessarily having to read that story.
Heavy, heavy trigger warnings surrounding this one: shooting, death, death in childbirth, discussion of boarding schools people were forcibily sent to and what happened there, cancer in a parental figure, racism, drug use and abuse including descriptive passages of the use and effects. If you have had any drug addiction issues, please take caution when reading this or maybe don't. It is quite a lot.

Was this review helpful?

Wandering Stars is both a prequel and sequel to Tommy Orange's "There, There" but it also works on its own. I think you could probably read the books in any order. Orange has a beautiful writing style. The multi generational story can be difficult to follow if you're not paying attention to the various characters but it tells a story of identity and family and addition in a very memorable way.

Thank you to Knopf Publishing and Netgalley for the electronic copy.

Was this review helpful?

Another beautiful novel by Tommy Orange. I enjoyed this family drama through trauma, love, and confusion. The journey through life is complicated and heartbreaking.

Was this review helpful?

This one was really difficult for me to get into, It was compelling overall, but had moments that pulled me out of the story and it took me a long time to finish as I kept leaving and then coming back to it.

I will tackle this one again when I'm in a different head space.

Was this review helpful?

So many cultures have been wronged by man's inability to understand, to educate, and to not desire more and more.

The story is told in two time periods, one of which occurs in 1864 in Colorado, and the other in Oakland in 2018.

The 1864 segment delves into the Sand Creek Massacre where only one person survived, who is then sent to prison where he (Star) is forced to learn English and follow Christianity. Later, an institution founded by Richard Henry Pratt becomes Carlisle Indian Industrial School, where the Indian culture is banned and eradicated. Many years later, Star son, Charles is sent to the school where he is mistreated by a former guard of his father. Finding friendship with a fellow student, Opal Viola, they share hope for their future.

Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield in the time period of 2018 struggles to keep her family united, but when her nephew, Orvil is shot and becomes addicted to pain meds and investigating school shootings, life falls apart. Orvil's brother is dealing with PTSD, cutting himself as he tries to connect to his Cheyenne heritage. Opal is also searching for a cure for her family's ills and starts experimenting with peyote and Ceremony.

Sadness and pathos follow in this book hand in hand, as we, the reader are bought to the realization that we are the ones who are killing what could be.

The one drawback was the lack of how the story came together and following who was who that was telling the story. I did think the second half was more together than the first however, and worth the time I read this sad tale.

Thank you to Tommy Orange, Knopf, and Net Galley for a copy of this moving tale.

Was this review helpful?

This one was hard to get through. Trauma told in a stilted, detached narrating voice seems to be trendy nowadays, but it makes it hard to connect to the characters for me. Would be a more moving book otherwise.

Was this review helpful?

Tommy Orange does not need to worry about the sophomore slump with his new book. It's another banger putting Native American stories in the forefront.

In Orange's latest, readers are taken on a Native American history ride beginning with the Sand Creek Massacre of 1864. Generations of Natives deal with the trauma of genocide, starvation, stolen children, physical, emotional and sexual abuse and forced relocation to a portion of the land that formerly belonged to them. Characters from Orange's first book make an appearance as they deal with the aftermath of the events at the powwow. The trauma from the powwow, along with generational trauma, manifest into different harmful coping mechanisms to deal.

Tommy Orange did a wonderful job taking readers through generations of Native American history without turning it into a text book. But what I love the most is how each generation tried to create joy even in the face of white supremacy and invisibility. Even when some of them wanted to give up, they still kept going. And that's the real victory.

I cannot wait to purchase my own copy of WANDERING STARS so I can read it again along with THERE, THERE. Tommy Orange has become one of the authors whose work I can't wait to read. I'm looking forward to more from him.

Was this review helpful?

Lyrical, hopeful, and heartbreaking, Orange’s Wandering Stars will keep reader’s attention throughout. Though at times difficult to follow, the family tree included at the beginning of the book is a must when it comes to understanding the generational trauma of this Native family.

Was this review helpful?

Tommy Orange does it again. I was absolutely entranced with his cast of characters and their stories throughout his second novel. This is great writing and excellent storytelling. If you loved “There, There” you’ve gotta read this one, and if you haven’t read either - you’re missing out!

Was this review helpful?

Immediately I was impressed with Tommy Orange's writing and was hooked. Reflective, a lot of symbolism, and emotional.

Spanning multi-generations following the Sandy Creek Massacre, the novel demonstrates how society has tried to erase the Native American Culture over time and how traditions are carried along.

Told from different character's perspectives, you might need a pen and notebook to keep track of them all. This novel is ambitious. I can't stop raving about it and I never read There, There, but I will be sure to read it soon.

This novel isn't for everyone and it can be a challenging read, but so worth it.

Was this review helpful?

This book was really amazing how you tied.All these people together through this century. It starts out with the Sam Creek massacre. When the Ch.E. YA. N. E! We're being massacred by the united states Soldiers. The boys tried to run away but they were eventually captured and bought to the Fort. Star was put on a train going to florida. He was also sent to the boarding school called CAR l. ISL pin Pennsylvania by a man P r a t t. Who started the school. It was rough for them there because they were taking Wait there are native american customs. They were also dressed up a military uniforms. I was shocked to find out.They were actually at At washington a parade in their little military uniforms. Life was very hard for me. Star had a boy named Charles.You also went to that school but was very difficult for him and kept running away. He eventually made it way out to california but he had addiction to opiates. Opal was his girlfriend and she found a way to go to california as a helper in a white man's house. Things do not go well for them. And Charles eventually died, but opal had a little girl... She died giving birth to the little girl. The white people raise this little girl named v.I.C.I.Y. She was also had a very hard childhood. And was an alcoholic and like men. She had a local name Jacqueline.She named this girl after her friend who helped her a lot. They lived in oakland california for the different times. There's a lot of issues with drugs in this book which you can see why people turn to them. Jac q UI eat had a very hard upbringing as well.. She also had 3 little boys, but they did not live with her. But with her mother instead. She was addicted to drugs and alcohol as well. The grandmother tried really hard to raise these kids.But things distant seem to go very well. The oldest boy charles was shot and he became addicted to drugs and then met a friend Named s e a n. Sean's bobby made drugs in the basement because his wife died. Mike also was a drug dealer in this book as well. The 2 boys were not affected by this.Wanted to become more the native americans because they were tracing their history. It was a very interesting book. How things can go arise? When you break down the family, you can see the generation after generation in this book.

Was this review helpful?

Thanks to Knopf and Netgalley for this advanced copy!

Wandering Stars is an incredible tale of the effects of generational trauma, even as identities are erased or morphed for the modern world. Orange once again welcomes us into his world by first introducing many people to the Sand Creek massacre and the effects of christian boarding schools on indigenous and native children. Fast forward and we see the challenges that native americans face in modern America, a country where they have been killed, moved, adopted, and are dealing with addiction issues. Orange's changes in point-of-view allow us into multiple minds as they deal with trauma and life, showing what happens when society disconnects people from their native land and culture. Orange's prose is wonderful and his pacing was great. I can't wait to read what comes next.

Was this review helpful?

"Wandering Stars" is a captivating novel that explores the complexities of family, heritage, and the profound impact of addiction. Through a tapestry of perspectives spanning different generations, the author masterfully weaves a story that delves into the ways our roots can shape us, and the unwavering support that family can provide, even when it may not be felt.

The novel follows the journeys of several characters, each grappling with their own challenges and personal demons. The narrative shifts seamlessly between their voices, offering readers a multifaceted understanding of the characters' experiences and the consequences that addiction can have on loved ones.

At the heart of the story is the powerful bond of family, and the lengths they will go to support one another, even in the face of adversity. The author skillfully navigates the nuances of these relationships, capturing the delicate balance between unconditional love and the strain that addiction can place on familial ties.

Through its rich character development and poignant exploration of themes, "Wandering Stars" is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and the transformative power of embracing one's heritage. This captivating novel is a must-read for those seeking a deeply moving and thought-provoking literary experience.

Was this review helpful?

Tommy Orange’s Wandering Stars is a masterpiece, and should be required reading in this country. The book begins with the “wandering Stars” patriarch, a Southern Cheyenne survivor of the Sand Creek Massacre, who was taken as a prisoner of war and jailed in the star-shaped prison-castle in St. Augustine, Florida. There, he and other Native prisoners had their hair cut, were given military uniforms and were ultimately forced to adopt Anglo names (becoming, in this case Jude Star).

Jude’s son Charles and other Native children suffer a similar fate by being forced to attend the Carlisle Indian Industrial School where “their long hair was cut, their clothes were taken, and new names were handed out along with military uniforms,” in service of the slogan “Kill the Indian, Save the Man.”

Orange shows how addiction became a common way to cope with generational trauma caused by this war against the Native population, passed down through members of the Star family. Yet, even in diminished circumstances, the characters survive through art and creativity, as well as connecting with their Native heritage as passed down in oral and written form, and a reckoning with what has been taken from the Native people generally. This novel is beautifully written in fire. 5.0 out of 5 stars. Highly recommended.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for providing me with a complimentary advanced reader’s copy of this book.

Was this review helpful?

this was excellent.

it had so much to say about america, about family, about addiction, about being native, about cultural identity, and it did it all in such beautiful language and so precisely.

there were parts of this where it lost me, and there was one perspective i don't think added more than it took away, but the last sentences of this brought tears to my eyes. striking.

Was this review helpful?

Love, love Tommy Orange. I had no idea of the significance of his book titles before realizing that the lyrics from Portishead's Wandering Stars is also a reference to the bible verse, did a deep dive into that one. Unlike with Demon Copperhead I was somehow able to stick with these stories of fractured family and addiction that felt critical to hear, redemptive and hopeful.

Was this review helpful?