"For many years Robert Gish has written critical and creative literature of singular intelligence, complexity, and grace. His new novel, River of Ghosts, is an extraordinary meditation on our nation's immense abundance, vitality, eclecticism-and our eternal undercurrent of displacement, anger, and violence. Halcyon and harrowing, disturbing yet wonderfully lyrical, often elevating, sometimes mephitic, this remarkable book about a place, people, spirit fish, and Gaia will intrigue, provoke, frighten, and delight you. And will give you the best construal of Buffalo Bill you'll ever encounter."
"River of Ghosts explores the disarmingly complex territory of an Iowa region. Mapping the latest trends in American society as well as the ancient legends of Native time, Robert Gish bestows both surface realism and spiritual depth on that territory. The result is a winning combination."
The work is unified by a common image of fate settling where it will, with people being tossed about in a world that appears to have lost control. From the Tulsa race riots of 1921 to Buck’s last coon hunt, we are never left in a comfortable place, though we may see after the fact a rough justice at work. Gish recalls a world where although the workings of Providence are hard to fathom and their outcome is often hard to bear, they are what we must accept because our very lives are built on them.
Gish’s vivid storytelling technique utilizes compelling voices and gritty characters: the regulars at a small-town café; the local rodeo with its manly contests; the staged fiesta with its attempt to recreate traditions; a young stripper at a honky-tonk tavern; the classrooms and playgrounds of public schools with their mix of Anglo, Mexican-American, and American Indian youths; and the fields where taboos of interracial romance evaporate into the cloudless blue sky and the churning, muddy irrigation waters of the Rio Grande.
The unifying theme of these short stories is a subtle plea for harmony and mutual respect among the inhabitants and the landscape. Violence, racism, sexism, and environmental pollution prove to be the remnants of earlier insensibilities, residues in need of recognition and disavowal. Many of these stories, told in varying voices of male and female, Anglo and Hispanic, young and old, trace this recognition along the turbulent paths of initiation as one generation learns about its own special concerns in the shared heritage of others.
All fourteen stories in First Horses are set in the sometimes magical, sometimes brutal Southwest. Cutting through class and ethnicity, each story illustrates how a land and a history determine a people and are determined by them.