The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

I’ve written about Gail’s books before, but completed The Spawning Grounds in October, so I thought I’d leave a small footprint in the passage that is my life about this one.  In her promotional video, Gail uses the perfect word to describe this story…well, at least it comes up.  The word is ‘numinous’…not a word I’ve encountered before, but I love it.

  1. having a strong religious or spiritual quality; indicating or suggesting the presence of a divinity.
    “the strange, numinous beauty of this ancient landmark”
    synonyms: spiritual, religious, divine, holy, sacred;

    The Spawning Grounds gives the reader opportunity to consider characters, conflict in relationships and an awe-inspiring setting, but the thing that will either make or break this book, for the reader, is this ‘numinous’-thing that Gail, herself, has described as being ‘magic realism’.

    The book confronts the stories of people on two sides of a river, separated by a bridge.  In itself,  this initial setting establishes a huge metaphor for readers, especially given the present-day events of Standing Rock and the struggles for the Sioux and Lakhota peoples.

    While the element of magic has been present in other books that I have read by Gail, this one takes the cake for the consistent and fluid relationship between humanity and its spirituality. (Science Fiction? No!  Magic…or as we religious folk call it, Belief.) There is conflict as a result, and the reader questions his/her own ability to distinguish between what is real and not.  Some readers will cluck their tongues on this one.  However, I was able to move beyond rational explanations like ‘mental illness’ and ‘trauma’ and flowed easily into more remarkable mythologies that explained the sequence of events that erupted throughout the book.

    This won’t make any sense to my readers, right now.  In looking over that last paragraph, I take pause.  “Hmmm”…I’d say, “give it a chance”.

    For me, the novel was lyrical.  The images that were created were both horrifying and wondrous.  I loved this book.


2 thoughts on “The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

    • Yes, I think Gail gets inside her characters, but more than that, her writing has a sense of ‘place’, like no other writer. She rests in the observations of these locations and this makes them accessible to her readers.

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