Gretta Bitsilly, a gin-steeped mother of two and
self-proclaimed expert at standing just outside the margins of
ethnicity and peering in, has been all but eclipsed by the world
that eludes her-as a wife, as a writer, as a skeptic in "the other
land of Zion," Utah. Gretta has set off to Fort Defiance, Arizona,
where she hopes to convince her Navajo husband, who has escaped not
from his family but from alcoholism, to come home. Over a
sputtering two-steps-forward, one-step-back desert journey, Gretta
is diverted by chance, by seizures, an inconstant memory, and the
disjointed character of her irresolute quest. She is fueled by a
volatile mix of rage and curiosity and is rendered careless by
ambivalence toward her marriage-she knows a welcome mat will not be
waiting for her, "that white girl" who can't seem to get anything
right. On route Gretta fi nds herself lost in the landscape, in
strange company, or in her own convolution of language and inner
space. With a dictionary and a laptop she attempts to write herself
into a better existence-a hopeful existence-and to connect points
of intellectual, physical, even spiritual reference.
This tale, though dark and difficult, is infused with tart,
twisted humor. Confused, disheveled, self-deprecating, and
self-destructive, Gretta is also sharp and funny. Here, first-time
novelist Christine Allen-Yazzie breaks apart her own narrative arc
but with gritty reality seals it near-shut again, if in
rearrangement, drawing us into Gretta's wrestling match with
herself, her husband, her addiction, and the road.
The Arc and the Sediment received an honorable mention
from the James Jones First Novel Competition, and it won the Utah
Arts Council Annual Writing Competiton Publishing Prize.
Subjects: Language & Literature
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