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Yellowcake introduces us to two unforgettable families—one Navajo, one Anglo—some thirty years after the closing of the uranium mill near which they once made their homes. When little Becky Atcitty shows up on the Mahoneys’ doorstep all grown up, the past comes crashing in on Ryland and his lively brood. Becky, the daughter of one of the Navajo mill workers Ryland had supervised, is now involved in a group seeking damages for those harmed by the radioactive dust that contaminated their world. But Ryland wants no part of dredging up their past—or acknowledging his future. When his wife joins the cause, the messy, modern lives of this eclectic cast of characters collide once again, testing their mettle, stretching their faith, and reconnecting past and present in unexpected new ways.
Finely crafted, deeply felt, and bursting with heartache and hilarity, Yellowcake is a moving story of how everyday people sort their way through life, with all its hidden hazards.
river without going in. At home he swims around the island, but ocean water is different, warm, the tidal pull both deeper and gentler. He follows an animal trail down to the water's edge. Even in the dark, he can see rocks puncturing the foamy pools, dozens of rough hatchets in the water—a dry year, a very dry year, yes, he's surely seen this river higher. But the gorge is narrow, the water deep enough. He begins to take his clothes off, the expensive boots, the stiff jeans, the dirty t-shirt,
hits pavement, and she barks with good gusto until the moment she sees him, then shuts up. She'll race up and down her side of the fence, furious but mute, until he has passed, and then she'll start up again. He's given Lady Finger a license to drive. Once, in a little bit of a temper, he can't remember why, he sailed his license across the fence at her. It's still there, wedged between the fence and the lawn, out of lawnmower range. The night air creeps down his coat. He shivers. He's got to
Officer Happy opens a file on his desk and begins looking through the papers. He pulls out something Delmar recognizes, his mother's calendar. Alice signed off as his in-home supervisor at his parole hearing. When rodeo season started, she had to give Officer Happy a calendar showing the dates she'd be away. "It's good," Delmar says. "She's home." He picks up the phone and starts dialing. "I mean she's not home now. She took my grandma to Durango to the eye doctor. She'll call you when she gets
Navajo language specialist. "He's got a single-party checking account. He didn't mark anything for marital status, but his beneficiary is somebody named Carlee Zahnee." "There you go," Arnold says. "Yeah, but he didn't put anything under relationship. She might not be his wife." "Oh, please." He peers at her out of the corner of his eye, his lip curled in an Elvis snarl. "Don't be mean," she says. He smiles and looks at the lake. Despite Becky's claim that she's tired of being terminally
grandmother's farm. He puts his thumb out. Nobody stops. He has passed the safety zone. He doesn't know what time it is anymore, though his watch says it's 2:25. He doesn't really know what that means, except that he's late, which is funny, because his whole life he's felt like he's been early, as if he lives in a flood and is trying to catch hold of something and always having it slip by. He knows she won't come—why should she? Anyway, he's late. Even if she comes it will do no good. He