The Death of Jim Loney by James Welch

by Cody

“She had said he was lucky to have two sets of ancestors. In truth he had none.” (p. 102)

A fractured novel about a fragmented man, The Death of Jim Loney is a close study of identity. It’s about not belonging and the immense weight of marginalization. It’s about a personal isolation that mirrors the vast landscape of Northern Montana—a terrain that, like Welch’s prose, is barren and beautiful and devastating.

Much like Faulkner’s Joe Christmas, Jim Loney feels the pull between two worlds but is unable to wholly embrace either. This creates a tension that, for both Loney and Christmas, ultimately finds release in violence. It’s a maddening existence, but it’s the only life Loney feels able to lead. Accepting this leads to his death, and, yet, it also yields long sought insight and peace:

“And it was the right light to see the world, halfway between dark and dawn, a good way to see things, the quiet pleasure of deciding whether the things were there or not there.” (p. 167)