Book Review of “There There” by Tommy Orange

Tommy Orange made his literary debut with the novel, “There There.” In short, the book is a captivating, eloquent journey that follows 12 characters on their way to the Big Oakland Powwow. Orange seamlessly ties in all 12 characters’ storylines in ways they are yet to be aware of. Orange’s modern, yet dramatic, usage of imagery and language creates a new literary classic while paying homage to Oakland, CA and the Bay Area. 

Through his expressive first-person point of view for each character, Orange immerses the reader with delight, fear, hope and grief. I was unable to put the book down, consistently eager for what would happen next. Orange’s novel is a poignant page-turner whose brilliant written word and character development led to the mesmerizing and inevitable end. 

Orange’s prose allows the reader to fully connect with each character, developing a sense of familiarity within each storyline, and exemplifying a realistic tone and spoken dialogue. To pick a favorite person would be almost impossible to say with the uniqueness each one possesses, but some that stand out to me more than others: Tony Loneman – with his act big, play hard attitude he portrays due to being born with fetal alcohol syndrome, frequently referred to as “the drome;” Opal Viola Victoria Bear Shield – her undying, natural maternal instincts that help keep her family together even when the world seems to be falling apart; and Orvil Red Feather – the grandson of Opal, who tries to identify with his Indian roots with a traditional dance at the Big Oakland Powwow. 

Orange is an enrolled member of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes of Oklahoma, as well as an Oakland native. This book is nothing short of powerful, fascinating and exquisite. I recommend this book to anyone, especially those looking to read a novel highlighting issues seen throughout the Native American community often not recognized by society. Without a doubt, I would give “There There” by Tommy Orange a five out of five stars.

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