CEREMONY by Leslie Marmon Silko
Ceremony was published for the first time in 1977 but it stands the test of time at every reading. This evergreen is a creative gift of love and artistry by Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko.
It is the story of Tayo's quest for wholeness and individuation after the shattering experience of World War II and his retrieval of Native wisdom through mythical encounters with remarkable and goddess-like women who initiate and heal him.
Tayo, like the author, is of mixed descent, half Pueblo and half white. As such, he is the object of suspicion among the villagers and of his companions' envy. He will have to recover the ancient wisdom which his uncle imparted to him as a child in the reservation in order to recover and find personal meaning.
The title Ceremony refers to the healing practices he has to undergo with the guidance of a powerful medicine man, and to the important realization, through his search for his uncle's lost cattle, that all life is interwoven into a common pattern. Thus Tayo's personal circumstances gain a wider significance and he, the half breed, becomes the harbinger of regeneration for the whole village.
The language is vivid and poetic, while the structure of the novel is not linear but circular, as it opens with poetic lines about the beginning of a good ceremony and ends with its conclusion. Throughout the novel, the main narrative proceeds through many flashbacks and is interspersed with Pueblo traditional lore, songs and poems, as reworked by the author's strong imagination.
Ceremony is a novel that speaks to heart and intellect, beyond cultural and social divides, highlighting the miracle of being at one with nature and the ancient ways. Tradition needs to be refashioned anew each time in order to be always meaningful and effective. It is a book about belonging and community, as well as about becoming strong and independent, and it unfolds its compelling vision with all the power of a great work of art.