Tayo returns to his village from WWII a traumatized man and seeks release through the traditional rituals of his people. Tayo is a young Pueblo Indian who returns to the reservation of his birth after serving in World War II. He left several years before with his best friend and cousin Rocky, who died before Tayo's eyes. He also bears the scars of killing many men, one of whom looked just like his uncle Josiah who died while Tayo was away at war. Having spent some time in a Veteran's hospital, Tayo has recovered some of his shattered wits, but he sinks into alcoholism with worthless friends once he returns home to his family. Tayo begins to hurt from racial pain he has endured at the hands of white men as well as from his war memories. Even so, he wishes he could return to war where he at least earned a measure of recognition for his service, or at least to the safety of the VA hospital. His grandmother intervenes by sending a local medicine man who performs a traditional upon Tayo, to little effect. The medicine man reasons that the ancient methods employed may not be powerful enough to work in a situation such as this. He sends Tayo to another medicine man in a nearby reservation who works closely with white people. Tayo meets him and the medicine man engineers a brand new ritual for Tayo, which is to unfold over the course of weeks, according to specific guidelines.
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Tayo returns home, recalling the events that transpired immediately before his departure to war. His uncle Robert bought a head of cattle at the suggestion of his Mexican lover Night Swan. When drought occurs, Tayo performs a rain ritual and a torrent follows the next day. Robert sends Tayo with a message to Night Swan and she seduces him when he delivers it. Intense drought follows and Robert's cattle run away while Tayo is at war. Now he searches for them in the countryside, finding them fenced in on a white man's farm. Tayo stealthily releases the cattle who run away, but is caught trespassing by white police. They let him go to hunt a mountain lion that has been stalking through the hills. Tayo loses the animal after a snowfall and spends the night with a woman who tells him that one of his old drinking buddies at the reservation has been spreading nasty rumors about him. She helps Tayo find and secure the cattle and advises him to hide from these old friends who are after him, seeking his life. He hides in an empty uranium mine while the men fight among themselves, killing one of them. While in the mine Tayo realizes that this is the last stage in the ceremony initiated by the medicine man. He reasons with the woman that it is safe to return home and his local medicine man pronounces him cured.
Best part of story, including ending:
I like how the author inhabits the traditions of the Puebla indians.
Best scene in story:
The scenes with Tayo in the VA hospital are very sad, but he's such a fish out of water, his character comes through strongly.
Opinion about the main character:
I admired his tenacity, especially in trying to find a solution for his problem and in searching for the cattle in his exhaustion.