‘Mapping the Interior’ by Stephen Graham Jones, a review

Mapping the Interior
By Stephen Graham Jones

Mapping the Interior, written by the great Stephen Graham Jones, author of 16 novels and tons of short stories, was released on June 20th by TOR PublishingMapping is about a fifteen-year-old boy named Junior, his younger brother Dino who is experiencing physical and mental problems, and his mother trying her best as a single mother. You may think that, because of the mention of a single mother, that the father is missing from this story. Instead, the father ‘haunts’ the story and the family, having passed away earlier prompting the move for the rest of his family from the reservation to another area. When the father’s ghost appears to Junior one night, wearing full pow wow regalia, we as readers are involved in all of Junior’s thoughts as he tries to figure out if his father is re-appearing for their good or for their harm.

Stephen Graham Jones is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. As a novella, Mapping the Interior barely surpasses 100 pages but each page is filled with such high degrees of emotion and tension that it’s near impossible to put the book down. Jones excels at conveying Junior’s inner thoughts and struggles with both supernatural and natural forces throughout the story and introduces change seamlessly and naturally at the end. In fact, the ending is one of those which both satisfies the current story while sparking the reader’s imagination to infer what happens next. In some senses, I want more. In others, I’m fine with the ending.

The underlying theme of the father/son relationship is authentic as the unfamiliarity/familiarity of the relationship haunts the story as much as the ‘ghost’ itself. The missing father figure for American Indians is true for a lot of Indian youth, and Jones does a great job of describing and including the problem without seeking pity or overdramatizing it. He simply writes a story that includes pain, a loss of relationship, a rekindling, and a horror at finding out the truth. Much of this novella reminded me of one of Jones’ other novels, Ledfeather, in how he deals with pain and Native youth in authentic ways while working through a fantastic story of transcendence between people and time.

In all, Jones tells a unique story about young American Indian kids who are left fending for themselves against a supernatural being, a being that reveals more about Junior and his father’s similarities than Junior may have wanted and brought about the potential for another experience, another story, later in Junior’s life. This is a great story for teens and older who love eery stories of self-discovery and adventure.