Sunday, March 27, 2011

Book review - The Vanishing American.

The Vanishing American is a 308 page novel by Zane Grey. The copy I read was released in 1925.

After the last Zane Grey book I read, I approached The Vanishing American with high hopes. Sadly, I was bound to be disappointed. The plot of the book follows a young American Indian from about 1916 to 1920. The main theme appears to be the downfall of his tribe due to the reservation system and corrupt agents and missionaries. Along the way a young white woman falls in love with him and moves to the reservation to attempt to help the tribe.

Corrupt agents and the reservation system definitely did severe harm to American Indians. The main character in Grey's book sees this happening. However, he does nothing of note to stop it. Instead he wanders tragically back and forth while stringing along the woman who loves him. This in spite of her repeated statements that he needs but to ask and she will marry him. He does enlist in the army and fights in World War One. We are told he fought heroically but no details are given. After the war he returns to the reservation for a short time before experiencing a mystical encounter and then dying of unknown causes under murky circumstances. The young lady is left to watch the other Indians ride into the distance as the book closes. The bad guys are never called to account in any meaningful way, love is left unrequited, and no heroic stand is taken by the hero.

The poor plot combined with unconvincing characters who are never fully developed make The Vanishing American a rather dull read. I would recommend that this book be placed on the skip list to free up time for better material.

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