Is ‘There There’ by Tommy Orange Worth the Hype? (Book Review)

There There by Tommy Orange

“This is a book that should not go unread. It holds the weight of generations that never had the chance to scream, and now, Mr. Orange is screaming for them.”

There There is, quite simply, a book that every American should read, if for nothing else, to remind us that our country’s success came at a great price – the genocide of a people who today wander their lives as “insignificant remainders.”

Angry, despondent, yet resilient and defiant, There There is a debut novel about the modern-day Native American, written by modern-day (Oakland-born) Native American Tommy Orange. His story read with the same vast and sweeping motion as Christopher Nolan’s film, Dunkirk—told from multiple perspectives (12, to be exact) that began to intertwine as the story wound closer and closer to the final climax.

What Spoke to Me

Mr. Orange’s writing is rich and lyrical, yet tinged with an edge I’m sure he acquired from his upbringing in Oakland, Calif.

Certain moments of There There will punch your conscience, when (for example) Mr. Orange writes about, “If you were fortunate enough to be born into a family whose ancestors directly benefited from genocide and/or slavery, maybe you think the more you don’t know, the more innocent you can stay … Look no further than your last name.”

Others brought out the beauty of his culture and will make you fall in love, such as, “Being Indian has never been about returning to the land. The land is everywhere, or nowhere.”

What Could Have Been Better

While I genuinely enjoyed much of his book, certain parts slowed for me, perhaps because he was writing from various perspectives. I sometimes felt as though I were reading a series of short stories that wound together, thus preventing me from falling into his characters the way I’d hoped.

I can’t say I loved the ending. There There does finish with a sad hopefulness, yet the main question I’d wanted answered was left unfinished. A little too ambiguous for my taste.

So, is There There Worth the Hype?

Yes. Overall, this is a book that should not go unread. It holds the weight of generations that never had the chance to scream, and now, Mr. Orange is screaming for them. I felt their cries reading his book, held their hearts in my soft palms, and wished so desperately that I could fix the wrongs for them.

But then, Mr. Orange wouldn’t want that. No, I believe he’s telling us that his people don’t need fixing, or pity, or help. They might have been broken, but they are strong. They are still here. And dammit, they’re proud.

Stars: 4/5

Book: There There

Author: Tommy Orange

Publisher: Knopf

Amazon Link: https://www.amazon.com/There-novel-Tommy-Orange/dp/0525520376

Did you like this review? Then follow me on Goodreads for more!

Follow on Goodreads widget