Cover image for Don't think twice : a novel
Don't think twice : a novel
Johnson, Wayne, 1956-
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Harmony Books, [1999]

Physical Description:
291 pages ; 24 cm
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



Deep in the magnificent landscape of northwest Minnesota, near the Chippewa reservation where he grew up, Paul Two Persons owns a resort lodge on fourteen thousand acres of pristine forests and lakes. Haunted by the death of his young son and his disintegrating relationship with his beautiful wife, Paul is on the verge of losing the land he loves due to an unpaid loan to his childhood friend Al.          When he is called on to identify Al's body at the morgue, he knows his troubles have just begun. Not only are shady developers eyeing his property with escalating delight, but his best friend is putting moves on his mourning wife, and he's getting the dizzying sense that these occurrences are related to his son's death and Al's "suicide."          It's not just the fire that damages half the lodge or the potshots that somebody takes at him on a dark night; it's the left boot missing from Al's body and the Chippewa burial markings misplaced on his dead friend's flesh. These oddities lead Paul into a staggering game of deceit and murder even as his family and friends go to great lengths to save him.          Wayne Johnson has crafted a complex novel propelled by the mysterious circumstances of a man's downfall and the pride and misfortunes of his people. This riveting literary thriller captures the soul of a people and the beauty of their land, while calculating the price of true friendship and the enduring power of love.

Author Notes

Wayne Johnson grew up in the north lakes region of Minnesota and on the White Earth and Red Lake reservations. He was a teaching-writing fellow of the Iowa Writer's Workshop and is the recipient of the prestigious Wallace Stegner Fellowship from Stanford University. His short fiction has appeared in several magazines and anthologies, including, The Atlantic Monthly, the Norton Anthology of Literature, and Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards.

(Bowker Author Biography)

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Paul Two Persons, a Chippewa Indian recovering from the accidental death of his son, is on the brink of disaster: his outstanding loan to a friend, Al, has placed his own business in jeopardy; his wife, Gwen, is showing signs of unhappiness; and, as if to throw more wood on an already raging fire, Al turns up dead, apparently a suicide. But Paul, despite a lack of hard evidence, suspects that the deaths of his son and his friend are somehow connected. This is an odd mystery, more like a traditional novel with a whodunit tossed in for good measure. The strained relationship between Paul and Gwen is frequently more interesting than Paul's amateur sleuthing, and we care more about whether Paul can save his business than whether he can solve the mystery. Readers expecting a traditional amateur-sleuth yarn--plenty of lurking about and misadventure--will be disappointed. Those open to something a little different--the strains of everyday life intensified by crime--will be well pleased. (Reviewed March 15, 1999)0609604600David Pitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

The elements of a potentially strong mysteryÄa character with a troubled past, a puzzling murder and shady business dealingsÄare present in Johnson's debut, but the novel, although beautifully written, fails to generate sufficient suspense. Paul, who lives in Minnesota near the Chippewa reservation where he grew up, is struggling to keep the resort he owns from going under. His marriage to Gwen is also on the brink of collapse, owing to the death of their son, and Paul, full of pride and anger, is a walking time bomb. After his friend Al is found dead, apparently a suicide, Paul begins to suspect that the shooting death was no accident and starts to scrutinize it in an investigation that parallels his personal struggles. As he unravels the complex circumstances of Al's death, Paul commences to put his own life back together. He spends much of the novel in an angry, narcissistic haze, however; and since the story is narrated from his point of view, the other characters, including his wife, seem remote. This may have been Johnson's intent, but even so, narrative force is sacrificed to Paul's self-absorbed behavior. Many detailsÄhow Paul is keeping the resort financially afloat, for exampleÄare missing from the story, and too many important plot elements are simply handed to Paul (in one scene, a woman, unprompted, unravels much of the mystery for him). The solution, then, is unrelated to his efforts. Johnson offers a memorably deep-hued portrait of a desperate character on the brink of self-destruction, but those looking for a pulsating mystery won't find one here. (June) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Paul Two Persons lost his son last November, and now his marriage is crumbling. His businessÄa resort lodge near the Chippewa reservation where Paul grew upÄis floundering thanks to a series of minor catastrophes and some bad loans Paul made to his friend Al. When Al turns up dead, Paul is catapulted into a game of reservation politics and deadly deal making. Johnson (The Snake Game, LJ 9/15/90) has written a book that manages to make the wide, airy spaces of the land of a thousand lakes feel claustrophobic with tension. It would be facile to compare the story to Tony Hillerman's work because of the Native American protagonists, but that would not be appropriate. Nevada Barr is a better fit; like her, Johnson gives the reader a brilliant sense of place even as the plot tightens a noose of anxiety. Recommended for larger mystery/suspense collections.ÄAlicia Graybill, Lincoln City Libs., NE (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



It was the way Gwen was standing, head tilted admiringly, that made my heart leap, that got me wondering. But then, with a cough, I came down the path, and the two of them, laughing, turned from the lodge stoop. Gwen, her hands on her hips, hair done up over her head in a dark knot, eyes bright. Clark, my old friend, tall and stoop-shouldered, grinning. "Hey there, Paul," he said, or at least that is what I think he said, and something shot away, like a night bird, a shadow. "What's up?" I asked.          I was carrying a stringer of walleyes; they thumped against my leg as I walked. It was a good feeling. I put a foot up on the stoop, and Gwen and I exchanged glances. We had a variety of signs we used around guests--a certain flat look, for example, meant, keep it moving; a narrowing of the eyes warned we needed to talk alone.          Gwen gave me that warning look now. It was after eleven and I had a party to take out early, so I had no intention of chitchatting. Clark pointed to the fish.          "Gill netting again?" he teased.          "Nah," I replied.          There had been some rough weather earlier, only it had moved off to the south. Now the air was damp, with electricity in it; thunder rumbled in the distance.          "You hear that?" I said, hefting the stringer with one hand and reaching for Gwen with the other.          "Dynamite," I said. "Brings 'em to the top every time." On the path back to the cabin, Gwen stopped now and again. There was something in her step, a lightness I wasn't sure I liked.          "Clark's funny," she said.          Yes, he was that all right, I agreed. Clark was very funny, in that offhand, dry way of his. We climbed the spine of the island. Down toward Hayes Junction lightning flashed. The cobalt-blue rectangle of Gwen's shirt bobbed ahead of me in the dark.          Gwen said something I didn't hear.          I was thinking about the money, and where I'd get it. I was trying not to let my near panic show. I had just days to come up with our next payment or we would lose the cabins, lodge, everything. I'd lent my old, and estranged friend, Al, a small fortune and had little hope of getting it back. Gwen had no idea.          And there was this, too: I got the feeling that something had changed around the lake, and in town, while we'd been gone over the winter, and the change wasn't good. People weren't talking to me, crossed the sidewalk in Pine Point when I approached.          It was as if something dangerous had attached itself to me, and getting too close meant trouble. Tchibai, the old ones called it, or walking shadow.          Following Gwen now, I wondered who'd put it on me. If it was fatal.          "Al call this afternoon?" I asked, trying to sound casual.          "No," Gwen said. She gave me a quick glance over her shoulder.          I pulled a face. For my old friend Al. A boogeyman face, tongue out, eyes wide. In short, trouble. Al had gotten deep into everything I'd run from up there on the reservation. All that Medicine Society hocus-pocus and politics.          "Stop it," Gwen said, laughing.          Yet there was little consolation in that. Al would call; I don't have it, he'd say. I'd lie, to Gwen, and to some officer at my bank in the Twin Cities, who'd want to know what the trouble was--Why is your payment late?--and then I'd begin the scramble to turn things around.          I watched Gwen's hips shift as she climbed, her legs sinewy and slender.          "The washer died," Gwen said.          "Again?"          Gwen chronicled the day's losses. I knew them all. In November, when we'd shut down for the year, I'd taken inventory. Things did not look good. Now, the end of May, we'd been up at the lake two weeks and the lodge was coming apart around us.          "The pilot light goes out on the Hobart--"          That was the industrial-size oven I'd bought at an estate sale.          "--the thing in the bottom of the washer--"          "The impeller--" I said.          "Well, whatever, it doesn't work."          She stopped on the path where the spur angled off to our cabin, and I very nearly bumped into her. I thought she was going to ask me why I wasn't doing anything about it, but it was worse than that. She turned her face away; the moon shone in her hair.          "Gwen--"          "No, don't. Don't say anything," she said, her eyes shiny in the dark. "Please don't be funny now, will you? I just couldn't bear it. I mean it, Paul."          I got a sick feeling in my stomach. Now, here it was all over again.          I thought, standing behind her, just say it. Or shout it. I was to blame. Get it over, now. Just not all this--distance.          Our boy, Bobby, had died the November before; we'd all had a hand in it, Gwen, Clark, and I, though, it seemed then, Clark had had the deciding one.          "It'll get easier."          "No," Gwen said. "Stop. Just stop. You're always--you're always thinking things. You've always got some angle going. Can't you just let things be? Do you always have to tangle everything up?" Her eyes were hard; I'd never seen her look so bitter. "I don't want to be convinced things are different. That they aren't bad."          "I'll fix it," I said.          "You can't-- fix-- anything," she cried. "So can you please just stop it?"          "Gwen," I said, reaching for her.          She stepped back, shaking her head. She was lovely, and crying again. She'd misunderstood. I wanted to explain. But how could I? I hadn't meant Bobby, but Bobby was everywhere and in everything. Our winter down in St. Paul seemed not to have helped one bit.          "I'll have the old Taj Mahal--"          "Jesus--stop--please."          "I'll fix it," I said, taking her hand. "Really."          "Like what?"          "Like what? Like all of it."          "Oh, god!" Gwen said.          I pulled her close. She laid her head on my shoulder, the weight of the world there, and gritting her teeth, tried not to cry. In seconds she had me doing it, too.          "I'm sorry," I said.          "It's not your fault."          "It is," I replied.          "Oh, shut up!" Gwen said, pushing me away and running up the path. Excerpted from Don't Think Twice by Wayne Johnson All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.