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Crooked Hallelujah Paperback – 20 July 2021
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It's 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and fifteen-year-old Justine grows up in a family of tough, complicated, and loyal women presided over by her mother, Lula, and Granny. After Justine's father abandoned the family, Lula became a devout member of the Holiness Church - a community that Justine at times finds stifling and terrifying. But Justine does her best as a devoted daughter until an act of violence sends her on a different path forever.
Crooked Hallelujah tells the stories of Justine--a mixed-blood Cherokee woman-- and her daughter, Reney, as they move from Eastern Oklahoma's Indian Country in the hopes of starting a new, more stable life in Texas amid the oil bust of the 1980s. However, life in Texas isn't easy, and Reney feels unmoored from her family in Indian Country. Against the vivid backdrop of the Red River, we see their struggle to survive in a world--of unreliable men and near-Biblical natural forces, like wildfires and tornados--intent on stripping away their connections to one another and their very ideas of home.
In lush and empathic prose, Kelli Jo Ford depicts what this family of proud, stubborn, Cherokee women sacrifices for those they love, amid larger forces of history, religion, class, and culture. This is a big-hearted and ambitious novel of the powerful bonds between mothers and daughters by an exquisite and rare new talent.
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New York Times Editors' Choice
Top 10 New Books by the New York Times
An Indies Introduce
An Indie Next Pick & A Library Reads Pick
"In her more than promising first novel, Crooked Hallelujah, Kelli Jo Ford summons the details of minimum-wage life in the last quarter of the 20th century....This is a novel in stories, a dread form in the wrong hands...But Crooked Hallelujah has a supple cohesiveness....[Ford's] book reads like a series of acoustic songs recorded on a single microphone in a bare room with a carpet. There are times when you might wish for more boldness, but she never puts a wrong foot. This is a writer who carefully husbands her resources. Small scenes begin to glitter." --Dwight Garner, New York Times
"Kelli Jo Ford takes her readers on a compelling journey through the evolving terrain of multiple generations of women... This language is rich but never dense. There's a lightness to the perspective which shifts and bends, prismed by a matrilineal succession of Cherokee and mixed-race women... Ford's connection to her characters shines through the writing, infusing these voices with a sweet, sidelong zing. --Washington Post
"[S]tunning and lovable... Ford has drawn characters who are earthy, honest and believable in how they resolve or reconcile to difficulties -- money, jobs, relationships with men. There are so many passages in this book that are moving..." --Minneapolis Star Tribune
"[F]ull of poetry... Ford's prose is so absorbing that you're right there... [Her] pages ache with tenderness and love and no small amount of frustration... These stories stand up beautifully to rereading; they made me excited for what the writer will do next." --San Francisco Chronicle
Ford, a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, offers a novel in short stories, allowing her to move with ease through perspectives, history and time. Each heartbreaking chapter slowly adds to the reader's understanding of these women and their increasingly difficult lives. --TIME
Kelli Jo Ford has penned an extraordinary debut set in 1974 in the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma that is focused on mothers and daughters, the strength and sacrifices of women and the journey that growth requires. --Ms. Magazine
Electrifying... A riveting and important read. --Booklist(starred review)
[A] magnificent debut...Ford adroitly, affectingly weaves indigenous history into her spellbinding narrative, exposing displacement, unacknowledged violence, cultural erasure, relentless racism and socioeconomic disparity. --Shelf Awareness
Ford's storytelling is urgent, her characters achingly human and complex, and her language glittering and rugged. This is a stunner. --Publishers Weekly (starred review)
A book that you want to share with everyone you know and one that you are desperate to keep in your own possession. A masterful debut and a new and thrilling voice for readers across the globe. --Sarah Jessica Parker, on Instagram
"Strife between saints and sinners simmers in this richly drawn, atmospheric debut by a citizen of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma. Justine, a mixed-blood teenager, rejects her evangelical upbringing for more earthly pleasures, risking biblical plagues to embark on a decades-long odyssey that will carry her and her daughter to the Texas oil fields. Ford unravels the stirring ties that bind Native American women across cultural and generational chasms."--O, Oprah Magazine
"Engrossing and well-paced, this is a compelling story about women, mothers and daughters, the land, and family." --13 of the Most Anticipated Books by Indigenous Authors For the Second Half of 2020, Lit Hub
Ford's Crooked Hallelujah is more than just a really great title; it's the book that's going to be taught in creative writing programs for decades to come... What else can you say about a writer who won the prestigious Plimpton Prize and was published in the Paris Review right out of the gate? Nothing beyond Take my money.--Buzzfeed
Kelli Jo Ford's Crooked Hallelujah masterfully evokes loss and displacement, steeped in Native American culture, rife with compassion and deep understanding. Kelli Jo Ford is a powerful new Native American writer who writes beautifully with stunning prose! She is brilliant, and I can't wait for people to read her amazing book. --Brandon Hobson, 2018 National Book Award Finalist and author of Where the Dead Sit Talking
Crooked Hallelujah is an intricate, soulful look at three generations of Cherokee women pushed (in Philip Larkin's phrase) to the side of their own lives. At turns gripping and moving, Kelli Jo Ford's characters and the Oklahoma and Texas landscape take center stage in a truly modern drama. Ford sidesteps the easy tropes of spirituality and connection to nature and has created a modern masterpiece peopled with complex, fully-realized characters. A huge achievement. --David Treuer"Startling close-ups of the sticky relationship between mothers and daughters, between body and nature, between childhood certainties and adult skepticism. Kelli Jo Ford's writing is heartfelt and brimming with talent. This is a stunning, awe-inspiring debut."--Leila Aboulela
Praise for Kelli Jo Ford:
"Kelli Jo Ford's writing is a high priority and will only gain in the world's esteem...[her work] contains beauty and expected new intelligence."--Richard Ford on Kelli Jo Ford's "Hybrid Vigor," winner of the 2019 Plimpton Prize
About the Author
- Publisher : Grove Press (20 July 2021)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 304 pages
- ISBN-10 : 0802149138
- ISBN-13 : 978-0802149138
- Dimensions : 14 x 2.59 x 20.8 cm
- Best Sellers Rank: 660,501 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Three generations of Cherokee women in near-contemporary Oklahoma and Texas have the lives of hard-working, rent-scrabbling women everywhere who link up with listless or ruthless men. Untethered from their spiritual heritage and wound up in an ultra-fundamentalist church, these women don't give the reader a lot to root for. There's truth here, but the overwhelming theme is futility. Until that epilogue.
If you're weighing reading "Crooked Hallelujah" or another book, you might want to go with the other book.
The narrative unfolds as a series of short stories arranged basically in chronological order. This construction allows the reader a kind of intimacy with so many different characters at different points in their lives. When Kelli Jo Ford is writing, no character is filler or window dressing - each one is their own universe.
If you like novels by Larry McMurtry, Louise Erdrich, or Tommy Orange, you'll love Crooked Hallelujah.