If you are looking for a fast paced plot and traditional characters then Tin God by Terese Svoboda is probably not for you. Part of the University of Nebraska Press Flyover Fiction Series, Tin God is instead a more dream like exploration of the timelessness of the earth and vagaries of human nature. Oh, and it is narrated by G-O-D. If you enjoy skillful prose used to illuminate interesting perspectives then you will enjoy Tin God.
The plot, such as it is, focuses on two stories set in the plains and separated by some five hundred years. In the first, a bumbling conquistador finds himself lost among the tall grasses and whispering natives after having fallen off his horse. Thanks to his blue eyes the natives take him for a god and send out a young virgin to try and capture his essence.
Five hundred years later in the same field we have two young men trying to find a bag of cocaine that they tossed out the window with a cop in hot pursuit. The search is complicated by the recent devastation of a tornado. Jim, who owns the land, needs to turn it over in order to get his government check. “Pork” needs to find the expensive bag of drugs before anyone else does so he can get on with his life as a male “dancer.”
The narrator god alternates between these two stories and slowly unwinds them – while musing on her interaction with humans and vice-versa – until we come to a climatic resolution of sorts. The story threads meet when Jim, digging with a back hoe and leaving his own monument to the past, uncovers traces of the conquistador’s travels.
So what to make of this short unique novel? I must say that I enjoyed it. It is unconventional and can be slow in parts, but it is also evocative and thought provoking. It isn’t the kind of book you pick up and can’t put down until you are finished, but I found it to be an enjoyable bedside table read. Below are my scattered thoughts and reactions.