Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars
Bryce Morton just suffered a major loss in his life and in his grief he has withdrawn into his work almost completely. His friends (and boss) Jerry Lincoln and his partner Akecheta (John) Black Raven are worried about him. They finally convince him to come camping with them on the Sioux reservation where John’s family lives and where Jerry’s company has been volunteering their time teaching computer skills to the tribe members. It is on the reservation that Bryce meets Paytah Stillwater, the owner and operator of the reservation’s trading post.
Paytah Stillwater’s life has been one of abuse and torment that he has managed to conceal from all around him. He tried speaking up as a child but no one believed him. Now Paytah lives as though he is alone with his store as his island, separated by choice and his past history from the very tribe he should be counting on for support. When Paytah attends one of the computer classes taught by Jerry, Akecheta, and Bryce, Bryce tries to help Paytah but is rejected. It is only when Bryce comes to the aid of a young Sioux child that Paytah starts to change his mind about white men on the reservation.
Before long, Bryce and Paytah realize that they care for one another and want to work towards a long term relationship but many obstacles are standing in their way. Then the man who abused Paytah returns to torment him and take advantage of other young Sioux children and their choice becomes clear, to put a stop to the abuse and help Paytah finally heal, something that can only be done if they do it together.
The Fight Within continues to follow the lives of the people introduced in The Good Fight and the plight of Sioux Indians on their reservations. Bryce Morton was one of the two men (the other being John Black Raven) that Jerry Lincoln hired when expanding his business. As a secondary character, we were made aware of parts of his life, including the fact that he had fallen deeply in love with a man called Percy. When The Fight Within opens up, three years have passed and Bryce is engaged and getting ready to marry his Percy. But tragedy strikes on his wedding day, plunging Bryce into depression and grief. I had liked Bryce immediately and was happy to see that Grey was giving him main character status0. By imbuing Bryce with a background that included a fresh knowledge of loss, the author is setting the stage perfectly for a confrontation with a character who has lived a life of loss, abuse, and pain. That would be Paytah Stillwater, a Sioux who owns and operates the trading post on the reservation.
With Paytah Stillwater, Andrew Grey once more revisits the ongoing plight of Native Americans in the US today. Many of the reservations around the country, but mostly out west, are outposts of poverty, where the abuse of alcohol and drugs are prolific, and depression and suicide are common. Paytah Stillwater and the Sioux on his reservation help to put a face on the tragedy that is occurring daily in many Native American lives. Jerry, Bryce and John whose real name is Akecheta are trying to help the reservation make its own way by donating computers and their time to teach computers skills to those interested. It is a fine line here that Andrew Grey walks with the type of assistance that the men offer in the story because at times it comes close to that old “white man patronage” avenue that is borderline offensive. But Grey manages to skirt around that issue (mostly) by bringing it up first, that Bryce realizing that it needs to be organized and maintained not by him but by the tribe itself. Still at times,Bryce ended by being uncomfortably close to the white man savior seen in the movies and other books. This is really my only qualm with this story.
Paytah Stillwater is a character whose history is nothing but episodes of secret abuse and the resultant shattered self image. I thought this character was especially well done. In fact, the author handles the entire subject matter of child abuse and its effects on the person as they grow into adulthood with sensitivity, and knowledgable insight. It is clear that Andrew Grey has done his research on the issues that plague Native Americans on the reservations these days and his compassion for their plight shines through these stories he has written about it.
Andrew Grey writes a tight, even flowing story with fleshed out characters that are easy to connect with. The subject matter of both stories highlight one of this nation’s most under reported national disgraces. I thought the manner in which Grey worked the details of the tribe’s lack of commerce and level of poverty into the story was well done without being strident. That must be a hard thing to accomplish as the real situation on the reservations makes one want to rant and pound things. Again my only issue here is that I was a little uncomfortable with the fact that it was Bryce bringing all these ideas to start commercial ventures to assist the tribe instead of a tribal member themselves. I kept thinking, surely, someone there would have thought of the buffalo herd idea before Bryce. But I am not sure how else the author was to get the points across in his story either. It is an easy obstacle to come across, and a less easy one to negotiate. I applaud Andrew Grey’s efforts on trying at any rate.
I absolutely recommend this book and the one that starts the series. Read them in the order they were written and settle down to enmesh yourself in the world of the Sioux and life as it is lived on the reservation, with all its cultural pride in its heritage, natural glory of the land and deep deprivation that is so unnecessary in our society.
Cover art by Anne Cain is just gorgeous any way you look at it.
The Fight Within (The Good Fight #2)