Reading Group Guide
- Throughout her life, Dalva has been alternately haunted, charmed, and driven by a series of men: her half-brother Duane, a half-breed Sioux whose child she bore and gave up for adoption at sixteen; a heroic great-grandfather, who came to Nebraska as a missionary to Indians; a father who died when Dalva was very young; an uncle who comes to be her spiritual mentor; and an alcoholic, self-absorbed Stanford historian who seeks to win tenure by writing her family's history. Discuss Dalva's relationship with each of these men. How does each relationship evolve throughout the novel?
- With Dalva, Jim Harrison presents to readers an unflinching look at the United States' Indian policy over the last two centuries. Through John Wesley Northridge's journals, we are vividly reintroduced to our country's brutal history, and Professor Michael's sodden musings are sprinkled liberally with powerful associations between the genocide of American Indians and the Jewish Holocaust during World War II. Explain the politics and ideology from which Harrison's story emerges.
- Compare the voice of Dalva with the voice of Michael. How does the tone of the novel change when Harrison shifts from one narrator to the other? Discuss the novel's narrative structure.
- Early in the novel, Dalva says, "I'm not one to live or subsist on memory, treating it as most do, the past and future as