Perma Red

Written by Debra Magpie Earling
Review by Melissa Galyon

Perma Red will reward those readers waiting for the latest great American novel. Earling weaves a timeless tale of love, heartache, and betrayal through impeccable characters and a driving plot set in 1940 on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Though the novel took the author many years to finish, I would be willing to wait another ten years for a novel as well written and provocative as this one.

For Louise White Elk, growing up on the Reservation is tough. Constantly hungry and on the run from school officials, Louise becomes an adult quickly. Four men who live around Louise shape her life into one that most women choose to avoid. A sheriff on the Reservation who falls in love with her despite his existing marriage; a cowboy rancher who ignores her childish crush; a rich white man willing to give her the world, for a price; and a young Indian man who seemingly spends his life waiting for her all become central to Louise’s evolution. An intense series of events bring them together, and Louise must decide which man she will choose for life.

Earling’s prose is concise, lyrical, and gripping. Each chapter, narrated by alternating characters, adds a third dimension, so that the reader learns as much of Louise as possible. This extraordinary novel is not one to miss.