Book Club: What did you think of The Shape Shifter?

Discussion in 'Chit Chat' started by kholmes, Mar 28, 2007.

  1. kholmes

    kholmes New Member

    Hey, Bookies.

    This wasn't my favorite Hillerman, but I liked learning more about Navajo rugs, and I really like the character of Joe Leaphorn. I would have liked a bit more action and less dialogue, but I always feel like I learn something new about Navajo culture when reading Hillerman.

    I picked up Hillerman's memoirs from the library the other day and was reading about how he became interested in Navajo culture. He was wounded in WWII and when he returned, he visited a Navajo community near Gallup, New Mexico. He learned that many Navajo vets had a ceremony called an Enemy Way done to help them to heal from the physical and emotional scars of war, and he got to witness one of these ceremonies.

    A publisher in New York called his first effort at fiction about Navajos a "bad book," and suggested he remove all of the Navajo stuff.

    My Navajo students used to be divided on Hillerman; some thought that he exploited Navajo ceremony and culture and revealed beliefs that shouldn't be included in pop fiction, but most thought that he respected Navajo culture, and they enjoyed his books themselves.

    I got to see Hillerman speak at the University of New Mexico a few years ago. He's a terrible speaker--it was hard to understand a word he said, but I think he's a fine writer, and I hope he's got a few more Joe Leaphorn or Jim Chee novels left in him.

    So what did you think? Feel free to talk about whatever you want to talk about in relation to the book.

    [This Message was Edited on 03/29/2007]
  2. Marta608

    Marta608 Member

    I read only one other Hillerman book years ago and I remembered why I don't read more of him.

    While the Navajo history and information about their rugs was interesting in this book, he repeats his story line via the discussing with his various characters so many times that I grow very bored.

    Sorry, this wan't a favorite but it's always fun to be a part of the Book Club.

    Do we have another book yet?

  3. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    cause, as I posted earlier, I couldn't get a copy. I said the library had hundreds of people on its hold list so I couldn't get ...

    What were you saying about repetitive, Marta? Anyway I've read 2 or 3 Hillermans. Gordon likes his books better than I do.

    I disagree about normal flaws, Molly. On this board we have our share of normal flaws and a whole lot of extra ones; at least in terms of medical flaws. Haha

    I think Leaphorn would be a great name for a unicorn, or possibly a mountain goat.

    I am reading my second book by J. F. Freedman. Writes great thrillers. Lives in Santa Barbara, 100 miles north of me.

    Just finished a book called Be A Clown. The author is a clown and his book uses the method approach to acting. Opposite end of the spectrum from the recent books I read regarding the circus and clown college.

    Final note: James Burke, in one of his programs on the history of technology and science, said after the invention of the printing press, a thousand books a year were being published.

    "Today there are thousand a day." Well, the "today" was about 30 years ago. Just read on the net we are up to 3000 a day.

    Oprah's book club will never catch up.

  4. Marta608

    Marta608 Member

    What I meant is that every time a new character is introduced in the book, Leaphorn goes alllllllll through the case from beginning to end again with them - and us. It became repetative.

    It became repetative.

    It became repetative.


    Now if you know something to entertain a cat who thinks it's my fault that it turned chilly and she can't stay out on the porch with the door open, I'd like to hear it. See the icon. That's me after two days of Sophie's complaints.

  5. rockgor

    rockgor Well-Known Member

    You're so silly. It's obvious that you do not understand feline psychology. Just wait right there by your computer whilst I prepare a long list of people who do. Hahahahaha

    I must admist Sophie is the most insegrevious cat I ever heard of. "Insegrevious" is a word I made up. I used to put it in reports to clients.

    "This is clearly a most insegrevious development, and I recommend that we explore the possibility of a settlement in the very near future."

    Kawinkadentally I just quit reading a new book because the author was too repetitive. She had the two main characters engage in the same argument every 5 pages. About the 6th or 7th time, I said, "Well, rats! This book is too insegrevious," and closed it forever.

    I still have three from the library and a bag full from the thrift store. No need to panic for lack of books yet.

    Gotta have dem books.

    What happened to your profile? It has been vandalized.

  6. Rosiebud

    Rosiebud New Member

    my intro to the book club. What a beautiful cat you have Marta and your word should be in the Oxford Dictionary Rock.

    I tried to like the book but found it really difficult, I was so bored with the first couple of chapters that I almost gave up. I did enjoy reading about some of the Navajo customs and sayings especially

    'to make hunting deer a sport, you would have to give the deer rifles and teach them how to shoot back'

    I read Buried My Heart At Wounded Knee in the 70s so know some of what the North American Indians went through but not a lot about their customs.

    I also liked reading about Tommy Vang's people.

    I dont think I'll read anymore Tony Hillerman books, I do think he's respectful of the Navajo nation and not exploitative at all. There was just something missing for me and I cant put my finger on it, the plot was apparent early on, I didnt get inside the character of Joe Leaphorn, I was bored mostly.


    [This Message was Edited on 03/30/2007]
    [This Message was Edited on 03/30/2007]
  7. windblade

    windblade Active Member

    Ken, that was so interesting to learn how Hillerman became interested in Navajo culture. I've read all of his books in this series, some 2 or 3 times.

    I've found the last 4 books to be dissapointing, as he's lessened the interesting mix he had when there was more of Jim Chee in the stories. Chee and Bernie have more of a traditional and spiritual side that enriches Leaphorn's pragmatism.

    Also, I miss the detailed, atmospheric descriptions of places that used to anchor you in the stories. And the younger, love interest between Chee and Bernie was pretty much dropped by Hillerman.

    A lot of interesting stuff gone! There was a recent one though that took place at the bottom of the Grand Canyon that had a better plot. I liked that one much better.

  8. mezombie

    mezombie Member

    This is the first of Hillerman's novels I've read. (Of course, my memory is shot, so maybe it isn't!)

    I liked the descriptions of Navajo culture. Using the rug to explain the forced march of the Navajos was an interesting literary device.

    I also found the part where Leapfrog and Vang share their stories about the Navajo and Hmong dislocation particularly poignant. The parallels are haunting.

    The Navajo "Enemy Way" ceremony is intriguing. We could use something like that in our culture!

    The one thing I did find disconcerting was the failure of any locals to recognize that Shewnack and Totter were one and the same. Clearly, Delonie and the other accomplices pointed the finger at Shewnack, and Shewnack was known not just by them. I would think a police investigation into the matter would find people who knew Shewnack and had visited Totter's trading post. Delos kept to himself, but in his previous incarnations he clearly was in public view.
    I realize it probably still would have been impossible to actually arrest him because there was no hard evidence implicating him in the crime. Still, I'd think he would have been questioned and followed closely once the police learned that Shewnack had opened up a trading post/gallery under another name. Or am I missing something?

    Kholmes, what you wrote about Hillerman is very interesting. I always assumed he was part Navajo.
  9. mollystwin

    mollystwin New Member

    I just finished the book this morning. I've had a lot of brain fog, and had a hard time because I would have several days between reading and I forgot so much in those days! I kept having to go back and re-read! Then I was still confused! I think this was my first Hillerman book, but I may be confused about that too!!

    I was really confused about Totter and Shewnack. About whether they were the same person. Thank you for clarifying that for me mezombie!!

    And I assumed that Hillerman was Navajo as well. Thanks for clearing that up Ken. From his pic on the cover, he looked Navajo to me!

    My favorite character was Tommy Wang. Devos was so incredibly mean and insensitive to him!! I'm glad he got to go back to his people.
  10. mezombie

    mezombie Member

    Hey, it took all my brain power to figure out Shewnack and Totter were the same person! I listened to the audio version, which did not help. Finally a book became available at my library. I took notes and slooowly put the pieces together.

    It sounds like our brains are in about the same working order!