Brown Dog by Jim Harrison, Grove Press, 525 pages
We first met Jim Harrison’s Brown Dog in the author’s 1990 novella collection The Woman Lit by Fireflies. B.D., as he is most often called, is a denizen of the woods, waters, and watering holes of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. He claims he doesn’t amount to much and that “you can’t get more ordinary.” As the 75-page story opens, he’s making his living as a salvage diver. On a rocky ledge 70 feet down in Lake Superior, he discovers a perfectly preserved Indian dressed in the “old-time clothes of a tribal leader” with a frayed rope attached to his leg. (In the second Brown Dog novella, The Seven-Ounce Man, that depth would become 50 feet.) Before the first story is over, Brown Dog, an orphan who says that he’s no more Indian than “a keg of nails,” begins to believe that the Chief, as he calls him, just might be his father.
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