Young’s debut novel is a spiraling exploration into the complexities of betrayal and uncertainty, scattered like loose rubble beneath one’s feet ... Subduction’s plot proceeds with the forward motion of a river’s flow, at times gentle and meandering, then suddenly voracious, even dangerous ... filled with vivid imagery and lyrical language—nearly every chapter shows its characters observing the landscape, through varied, beautiful descriptions of birds and coastlines, while attempting to understand themselves and their respective pasts as they reaffirm nature’s power to heal ... Young masters the creation of a world whose secrets have long been protected, through both the eyes of an outsider coming in and an insider cast out. She captures, too, what it is to live in two worlds—for Claudia looking for a way in, and Peter for a way out—navigating the traditions of an ancient culture whose history has been pillaged, rooted out, and exploited, while also acknowledging the validity of the anthropologist’s work.
At its heart, Subduction is all about stories — the stories that constitute personal, family and cultural identity and, perhaps more important here, the stories that people tell, about themselves and to themselves, to make life meaningful and livable ... As the characters make their winding way toward the vaunted potlatch, there are passages of quiet beauty, deep emotion and sharp observation ... But lyricism and passion vie throughout with an academic impulse not unlike Claudia’s own ... whip-smart, if at times uneven.
... brilliant ... the book accomplishes something that only the best literature can: It asks the reader to wonder, and to reflect, and to ask crucial questions about society and identity. And it does so in a deeply entertaining and moving story. In less than 300 pages, the fast-moving but quiet plot of Subduction guides the reader on a journey that feels both disruptive—like an earthquake—and serene, like the rocking of a boat in gentle waves ... Most of all, the narrative doesn’t settle. It is an urgent odyssey that reverberates in the mind and body. In prose as drippy and lush as the moss and licorice ferns that green Pacific Northwest forests, Subduction shakes at the ground beneath all of our feet, avalanching us into a mess of colonialism, home and humanity.
... rife with personal struggles, confrontations, and the pain of memory ... the prose is most evocative when it’s describing the eerie and alluring nature of Neah Bay and of its particular settings ... The characters soften toward one another as the novel progresses, their depth becoming apparent and their stories becoming more and more compelling ... a gritty novel in which floundering people find hope and understanding where they least expect it.
Even while she blurs the boundaries between the personal and professional, the Native peoples of this novel are Claudia’s subjects, and Young is a skilled enough writer to explore the various problems inherent in that point of view. The title of the book refers to the geological phenomenon of one tectonic plate sinking under the influence of another, during which both subsumed and overriding plates are wracked by distortion and disruption. In Young’s novel, the answer to which...is left beautifully unclear.
Gorgeously, toughly written, this book dares to be open-ended yet leaves readers with a satisfying sense of how life really unfolds. Cultural clash matters here, but personal differences and desires even more. For any fiction reader looking beyond the obvious.
... lyrical and atmospheric ... Alternating between Claudia’s and Peter’s perspectives, the author creates moving portraits of two lonely, prickly people seeking to find their places in the world after so much pain and loss. Her lush, dense prose vividly captures the beauty of the Olympic Peninsula coast, but stylistic tics such as long, convoluted sentences slow the narrative, and abrupt transitions between the past and present sometimes confuse ... Like life, not all the issues raised in this first novel are resolved.