Sisters of the Lost Nation

Sisters of the Lost Nation

by Nick Medina
Sisters of the Lost Nation

Sisters of the Lost Nation

by Nick Medina

Paperback

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Overview

Notes From Your Bookseller

Monsters come in many forms; sisterhood too. This genre-busting novel delivers a story that never stops. Best read with all of the lights on.

Named a Most Anticipated Book by Barnes and Noble ∙ BuzzFeed GoodReadsBook RiotCrimeReads ∙ Ms. Magazine ∙ SheReads ∙ Amazon Editor's Pick ∙ Tor.com ∙ and more!

A young Native girl's hunt for answers about the women mysteriously disappearing from her tribe's reservation leads her to delve into the myths and stories of her people, all while being haunted herself, in this atmospheric and stunningly poignant debut.

Anna Horn is always looking over her shoulder. For the bullies who torment her, for the entitled visitors at the reservation’s casino…and for the nameless, disembodied entity that stalks her every step—an ancient tribal myth come-to-life, one that’s intent on devouring her whole.
 
With strange and sinister happenings occurring around the casino, Anna starts to suspect that not all the horrors on the reservation are old. As girls begin to go missing and the tribe scrambles to find answers, Anna struggles with her place on the rez, desperately searching for the key she’s sure lies in the legends of her tribe’s past.  

When Anna’s own little sister also disappears, she’ll do anything to bring Grace home. But the demons plaguing the reservation—both ancient and new—are strong, and sometimes, it’s the stories that never get told that are the most important.

Part gripping thriller and part mythological horror, author Nick Medina spins an incisive and timely novel of life as an outcast, the cost of forgetting tradition, and the courage it takes to become who you were always meant to be.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593546864
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 03/19/2024
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 12,325
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.90(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

About The Author
Born in Chicago, Illinois, Nick Medina appreciates blues-based music, local folklore, and snowy winters. He has degrees in organizational and multicultural communication, and has worked as a college instructor. He enjoys playing guitar, listening to classic rock, exploring haunted cemeteries, and all sorts of spooky stuff. Connect with him on nickmedina.net, Instagram (@nickmedinawrites), and Twitter (@MedinaNick).

Read an Excerpt

Day 36

7:21 p.m.

70 Hours Gone

Guided by fear and the muted moonlight, Anna stepped toward the trees, and then she was passing through them, leaving her old reality behind for the one unraveling before her. Black bark to her sides and ash beneath her feet, she smelled the earthy odors of dirt, mud, burnt wood, and something so vile her stomach turned. It was the same smell the wind had wafted her way on the nights she'd been chased. Only the odor was stronger now. Inescapable.

Anna's lowered gaze slowly passed over the ground to the brush surrounding her. The tall grass bore brown-red stains, streaked from the rain. The bushes did too.

Her little brother's voice sounded in the distance, moving farther away. It faded until it was gone, reinforcing that Anna was alone. And though she didn't feel safe pressing forth, she knew she wouldn't feel any better if she turned back.

She couldn't. Not until she knew.

Eyes closed, she coaxed her legs to carry her deeper into the field. The few steps they took might as well have been arduous miles. Reluctant as her legs had been, her eyelids were far more inflexible. When Anna eventually lifted them again, her eyes were like strangers to the darkness, unable to make sense of what was before them, but maybe they just didn't want to. A moment passed and then the horror set in.

Distressing sounds floated toward Anna from a few feet away. A lifeless eye observed her. A dead girl lay rotting on the ground.

Day 1

4:18 p.m.

Her classmates had bowed before her in the cafeteria, shouting, All hail the king!

"King" was marginally kinder than the assumptive and vile labels Anna was used to, but the smirks on her classmates' faces had stripped it of any majesty the title might have possessed. Anna had wanted to say something biting in return, but she knew an ireful "fuck off" wouldn't slay them all, so she clenched her cinnamon gum between her teeth and said nothing instead, which was precisely what they wanted. For her to shut up and take it so they could laugh and laugh.

She dragged her feet through the dirt after the dismissal bell and told herself not to think about it. Or them. They weren't worth it. Eight months stood between her and commencement day, after which she'd never have to see her bullies again. Maybe then she wouldn't be so silent.

The steady beep of a reversing truck and the grumble of heavy machinery carried on the air from across the Takoda Indian Reservation. The noxious scent of hot asphalt came with it. The road beneath Anna's feet was hard-packed dirt, but it wouldn't be for long. A construction crew contracted by the Takoda Tribe, to which Anna belonged, had begun paving over the reservation's dirt roads a month earlier. Soon the reservation would be linked by smooth, black streets like the ones in town, and gone would be the days when shoes got covered in dust from trampling over uneven dirt roads. It was just one more change made possible by the Grand Nacre Casino and Resort on the rez, which had triumphantly opened its doors two years earlier.

Anna stalled where the dirt road met one of the black streets. She recognized the need for change and the pride that came with being able to afford it, but the dark-green-and-purple smear on the asphalt ahead gave her pause. It was the second such smear she'd seen that week; the thirteenth since the construction crew started paving the dirt roads. There'd been plenty of roadkill-opossums, raccoons, armadillos-over the years, but never had there been so many small purple smears.

It wasn't just the asphalt's fault. The cooling weather, as summer turned to fall, drove frogs to search for spots where they could keep their little bodies warm. The black streets retained heat after the sun set far better than the dirt roads ever had.

The purple smear grew as Anna approached until it was wider than the bottom of her boot. It was the largest casualty yet, a bullfrog easily a pound and a half in size. Hind legs and webbed feet jutted out from the smear, indicating that the poor thing had been run down mid-hop. Anna's insides quivered at the sight-sick and sad, though she knew those very legs would be deemed good eatin' if they were battered and fried in any kitchen throughout the state, from Shreveport down to New Orleans. This king of frogs had thrived and survived through the most dangerous stages of its life-egg, tadpole, young adult-escaping threats posed by insects, fish, crayfish, birds, snakes, raccoons, and the froggers who hunted in the bayous and swamps. It'd beaten the odds over and over, only to end up as a wasted smear. Had it hopped a few inches to the left or a few to the right, it would still be the king of frogs, but by some twist of fate, it'd aligned itself for death.

Anna raised her gaze as an old car slowed and swerved around her. It rattled away through the trees on the far east side of the reservation where few went and even fewer resided. She could see her destination in the distance, set within an overgrown field that encompassed it and its lone neighbor nearly a football field away. She carried forth to the mouth of the dirt driveway that led to the abandoned trailer. Despite having been inside a dozen times or more, the sight of it made her feel like she'd just swallowed something slippery and swampy, something like the dead frog, especially when the sun was sinking. Her stomach churned. She always took a deep breath before running down the drive and up the trailer's rickety steps. And she always looked over both shoulders before going inside.

The door was gone. The trailer was dim. Just over ten years had passed since electricity powered the lamps. It was, in fact, ten years to the day that Anna had sat across the fire from her uncle, listening with horror and fascination as he voiced his theory about what might have happened to the trailer's owner. A sick anniversary only Anna bothered to remember.

Ten years to the day since her fear had been born.

Failing sunlight filtered through the filthy windows and disheveled blinds, casting a dull brown glow on the deflated couch. Anna never sat on it. Never would. She only came for the books. Two large bookcases lined the far wall, each loaded with a collection that had taken the trailer's owner a lifetime to amass. Anna had only begun browsing the collection a few months earlier, back in July after Erica Landry and Amber Bloom-best friends, both nineteen-vanished into thin air, leaving their families wondering and worrying on the rez. She hadn't been daring enough to enter the trailer before then. The sensation of eyes upon her put her on edge within the trailer's walls, making her suspect that she'd be punished if she got caught. But the books and the wisdom they held, wisdom that might just make her feel safer at night, were worth the risk. The books were everything.

Anna lowered the bag from her back and unzipped it. She pulled three moldy books from within and reinserted them on the top shelf of the bookcase from which they came, proceeding to grab the next three in line, each equally moldy and topped with a layer of dust that turned into a sticky paste when she tried to brush it away. Anna crammed the books into her bag, zipped it, and headed back to the doorway to return to the road where she could pretend she hadn't invaded the trailer at all. A flash of movement through the window made her pause. She squinted through the filth, then jumped back, startled, when a ladybug fluttered past her face and crash-landed against her chest. Its translucent wings folded beneath its red-and-black shell as Anna ushered the bug onto her palm, wondering what made such small insects so bold.

The movement outside the window continued, and Anna realized it was only a cloud passing over the trailer, casting a shadow that crawled across the windowpane. When her gaze moved up, she saw herself reflected in the dirtiest part of the glass. The rusted metal of the window frame created the illusion of a ragged crown upon her head.

She hadn't done anything wrong in the cafeteria earlier, yet it was she who ended up feeling sorry. And it was her whom Principal Markham had called to his office, where she sat across from the balding man, staring into his expectant eyes, refusing to say anything more than, They did this.

Anna slung the backpack onto her shoulders and stepped away from the window and the rusted crown. Outside, she blew the ladybug from her palm and dashed down the dirt drive to the slick, new street. The purple smear added to the slimy sensation in her stomach. She stepped over it, coaxing her eyes to remain on the horizon, but the memory of what she'd seen when she inspected the smear earlier brought her to a stop. The frog had certainly been run over, but Anna couldn't recall seeing tread marks stamped into the remains. She only assumed a tire had done the damage because the frog was in the road.

Reluctantly turning, she bent to inspect the former king of frogs once more. No marks. Something other than a tire had apparently squashed it. Something softer. Something smoother. Anna shivered. She tried to cast the thought aside, but suppressing it wasn't any easier than casting aside the incident at school.

All hail the king!

Her eyes darted back toward the condemned trailer, seeking a place to hide.

"Shit," she said, when she spotted something dark and round, slightly larger than a bowling ball, shifting from side to side beneath the trailer's rotting steps. It was the very thing she feared, the very thing that must have flattened the frog, the thing that might have made Amber and Erica disappear.

Anna turned toward home, only for her head to reel around on her neck. The round form was gone from beneath the trailer's steps. Vanished. Her flesh prickled as though swarmed by biting mites. Something moved in the overgrown grass along the edge of the dirt drive. The tall brown blades shimmied. Whatever had slipped inside the undergrowth was moving in her direction, picking up speed the closer it got.

Anna gasped and ran. The books in her bag thumped against her back all the way home.

Day 1

5:04 p.m.

The house shook from the force of the slammed door. Grace, upside down on the sofa, one foot over the headrest and her head hanging over the edge of the middle cushion, stopped babbling into the phone and moved the receiver from her ear.

"Saw it again?" she said, and smiled at her big sister in a way that some might have found mocking, but which Anna interpreted more affectionately, as though the smile were part of an inside joke they'd shared for years.

"It was a raccoon," Anna said, panting, trying to believe her own words instead of the nagging doubt at the back of her mind telling her that what she'd seen was much more human than that.

"You only come home this sweaty when you think you've seen it."

"It was a raccoon," Anna insisted. "Maybe an armadillo."

Grace flicked her eyebrows and went back to babbling into the phone, speaking in a dialect of breakneck gibberish called "Idig." Anna knew how the language worked. The infix "idig" was inserted at certain points within each word to disguise it. "Ball" became "bidigall." "What" became "whidigat." "Hello" became "hidigellidigo." Grace and her best friend, Emily, had become fluent in the ridiculous language. Anna could interpret a word or two when she listened hard, but she wasn't quick enough to completely decode her sister's conversations. Their parents were even worse. They hadn't a clue what Grace was saying.

Grace had started speaking "Idig" a year before Anna first entered the condemned trailer. Anna loathed the sound of the cumbrous language. Partly because Grace chose to share it with Emily instead of her, and partly because it was so fake. It turned Grace into something fake as well, eliciting phony expressions, gestures, and laughs.

More upsetting was that Grace had started sneaking out through their shared bedroom window, coming and going through the night, sometimes staying out until dawn, never telling Anna where she was going or when she'd return. And Anna, hoping to win Grace back, never snitched, despite knowing deep down that she should.

"Dinner in ten. Grace, hang up the phone. Anna, check on your grandmother," Dorothy, Anna's mother, said from the stove.

Anna tossed her bookbag onto her bed. She could hear her father making a racket in the yard, the thin walls no match against his resonant voice. Her brother, Robbie, was out there with him, aiming at things in the trees.

Anna pushed aside the old bedsheet tacked up in the entryway between the former dining room and the kitchen where her mother was spooning Hamburger Helper onto plates. "Everything all right?" she asked.

Grandma Joan's eyes snapped open, and her head sprang forward. A glistening tongue slid over dry lips as bony shoulders hitched up to earlobes. "I fell asleep again. Don't even know what time it is," she said, her voice ragged in her throat.

Anna let the sheet fall behind her, thinly closing off the former dining room, cramped with a bed, an armchair, a small table, a slew of boxes, and a wheelchair in the corner. "You closed them again?" Though the day would only remain lit for a little longer, Anna moved the curtains aside to welcome a bit of life into the drab room.

"What's it matter?" Gran said. Her words, slow and slurred, leaked through the gap between her lips on the right side of her mouth, which drooped a half inch lower than the left side. Anna was almost used to her grandmother's new way of speech, but though it'd been six months since the stroke, she still wasn't used to that saggy piece of lip. Sometimes the droop made her angry. Sometimes she was just glad Gran could still speak.

"Sunlight helps you feel better," Anna said.

"Did you read that?"

"It's a fact." Anna swept breadcrumbs from the table next to Gran's chair, then dropped onto the edge of the bed just a foot away. "Good day or bad?" she asked.

"Hard to tell anymore. How was school?"

Anna sighed. "Eight more months."

The left side of Gran's mouth curled up in a show of support. Her left hand, wavering, reached for the top of Anna's head while the right one, marginally withered, remained still atop the armrest. Anna lowered her head. Gran's hand absently brushed through Anna's hair, as it had so many times when Anna was small. Knotty knuckles and crooked fingers swept well below Anna's shoulders, like always before, only now Anna's hair ended at her ears, not the small of her back. Still, Gran's hand brushed through the air in search of the braids that once hung there.

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