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About The Book


From USA TODAY bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones comes a “masterpiece” (Locus Magazine) of a novel about revenge, cultural identity, and the cost of breaking from tradition. Labeled “one of 2020’s buzziest horror novels” (Entertainment Weekly), this is a remarkable horror story that “will give you nightmares—the good kind of course” (BuzzFeed).

From New York Times bestselling author Stephen Graham Jones comes a novel that is equal parts psychological horror and cutting social commentary on identity politics and the American Indian experience. Fans of Jordan Peele and Tommy Orange will love this story as it follows the lives of four American Indian men and their families, all haunted by a disturbing, deadly event that took place in their youth. Years later, they find themselves tracked by an entity bent on revenge, totally helpless as the culture and traditions they left behind catch up to them in a violent, vengeful way.

Reading Group Guide

This reading group guide for The Only Good Indians includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.


Four American Indian men from the Blackfeet Nation, who were childhood friends, find themselves in a desperate struggle for their lives against an entity that wants to exact revenge upon them for what they did during an elk hunt ten years earlier. Not just them, either, but their families and friends.

Topics & Questions for Discussion

1. The story opens with a dark and pessimistic headline that rings true by the end of the prologue. What do you think of Ricky’s prediction? Do you believe what he saw that night or was it a figment of his imagination? Could he have changed the outcome?

2. Lewis is haunted by one afternoon of hunting with his friends, instead of all the other hunts he’s been a part of. What about that hunting trip was unique? Do you understand how it was a violation?

3. Lewis believes he is being pursued by the spirit of the young mother elk he killed. How does his recent string of bad luck chip away at his sanity? Discuss the combination of factors that push him over the edge. Would these circumstances have driven you insane?

4. Lewis convinces himself that Elk Head Woman has infiltrated his life first as Shaney, then as Peta. What convinced him each time? Did you expect him to kill them both? If so, at what point did you realize he would go that far?

5. As the story unfolds, it seems less and less likely that Ricky and Lewis were imagining that an elk was after them. What did you believe was happening at this point in the narrative?

6. Discuss reading the chapters as told through the Elk’s voice. Why do you think the author chose to include this point of view? What fresh insight does it provide? How did it change your understanding of the first few chapters?

7. Having already heard Lewis’s account of that night ten years ago, how does hearing the Elk’s version of events change your perspective? Does it make the revenge justified?

8. We’ve had little access into the world Lewis and Ricky left until the novel moves to Blackfeet Nation. Discuss what you learn about the reservation from Gabe and Cassidy.

9. As the story progresses, the chapters continue to be told from the perspective of a pivotal character but with one significant difference: moments from the Elk’s perspective are now interspersed. Discuss this narrative choice. How does it affect your view on the unfolding events?

10. On page 156, Gabe mentions emptying his dad’s freezer of the last bit of elk meat from their hunt ten years ago and feeding it to the dogs. How does this moment tie into what is happening now? How does it foreshadow what is to come?

11. Describe Denorah. Discuss how she ties into what is happening with Elk Head Woman and why she is involved in what happened ten years ago.

12. As the three embark on the sweat, they reveal more about life as a Blackfeet, both past and present. Discuss the challenges they face and their differing methods of dealing with them. What, if anything, was surprising or unexpected about their experiences and their conversation during the sweat?

13. When Elk Head Woman sets her plan in motion, things unravel quickly for Cassidy and Gabe. She has no remorse for anyone who gets caught in the crossfire. Discuss how everything from one angle implodes, but from her standpoint goes like clockwork. Do you think this level of violence is warranted? Is this revenge or overkill?

14. Denorah and Elk Head Woman go toe-to-toe on the basketball court long before the true game begins. Why does Elk Head Woman draw this out? Imagine you are in Denorah’s shoes. Could you run, fight, and endure for as long as she does?

15. Denorah brings the saga full circle in the end. How does she influence the outcome? How do her actions compare to the choices her father made? What is the relationship with her parents? The day’s events have a significant ripple effect in the tribe. Why is Denorah’s story passed on?

Enhance Your Book Club

1. Stories, lessons, and legends are passed down from one generation to the next. Discuss the theme of generational knowledge and how it is an undercurrent for each character and influences their decisions. How has the history you’ve inherited influenced your life? How does it influence these characters’?

2. Everything that happens throughout the novel is possible only because, on some level, the characters believe that it is. Did their culture and upbringing influence that? Discuss what you believe about spirits, the afterlife, and what is possible or impossible. How easy or difficult was it for you to suspend your disbelief?

3. Early on, we learn the full meaning behind the title: The Only Good Indians. Discuss the meaning behind this insult and the author’s choice to use it as the title. Does it give power to the saying or does it take it away? Discuss its significance in the context of this novel, as well as in the world you live in.

About The Author

Gary Isaacs

Stephen Graham Jones is the New York Times bestselling author of The Only Good Indians. He has been an NEA fellowship recipient and a recipient of several awards including the Ray Bradbury Award from the Los Angeles Times, the Bram Stoker Award, the Shirley Jackson Award, the Jesse Jones Award for Best Work of Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters, the Independent Publishers Award for Multicultural Fiction, and the Alex Award from American Library Association. He is the Ivena Baldwin Professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder.

About The Reader

Product Details

  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio (July 14, 2020)
  • Runtime: 9 hours and 3 minutes
  • ISBN13: 9781797105550

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Raves and Reviews

"This story of young Blackfeet Indian men who believe they are being tormented by the spirit of a pregnant elk they killed is destined to be a classic in the miniscule genre of Native American horror fiction. The frightening tone of the audiobook is enhanced by the narration of Shaun Taylor–Corbett, who, like the author, is Native American. His flat, unemotional recitation of the horrible events makes them even more intense. As the story marries authentic Native American life with what is either a vengeful spirit or a psychotic breakdown, Taylor–Corbett gives nothing away. The protagonist learned long ago that killing is a part of life, but killing an elk in a sacred place has shattered his beliefs, causing him to spiral into madness—or to become a victim of the supernatural."

– AudioFile Magazine

“Thrilling, literate, scary, immersive. Bonus: The most terrifying one-on-one basketball contest ever. Makes that kid and the devil fighting for a golden fiddle look tame.”—Stephen King , #1 New York Times Bestselling Author

The Only Good Indians is scary good. Stephen Graham Jones is one of our most talented and prolific living writers. The book is full of humor and bone chilling images. It’s got love and revenge, blood and basketball. More than I could have asked for in a novel. It also both reveals and subverts ideas about contemporary Native life and identity. Novels can do some much to render actual and possible lives lived. Stephen Graham Jones truly knows how to do this, and how to move us through a story at breakneck (literally) speed. I’ll never see an elk or hunting, or what a horror novel can do the same way again.”

—Tommy Orange, Pulitzer Prize finalist of There There

"I like stories where nobody escapes their pasts because it's what I fear most."—Terese Marie Mailhot, New York Times bestselling author of Heart Berries

A heartbreakingly beautiful story about hope and survival, grappling with themes of cultural identity, family, and traditions.” Library Journal, STARRED REVIEW

“This novel works both as a terrifying chiller and as biting commentary on the existential crisis of indigenous peoples adapting to a culture that is bent on eradicating theirs.” —Publishers Weekly, STARRED REVIEW

“Subtly funny and wry at turns, this novel will give you nightmares. The good kind, of course.”Buzzfeed

"The best yet from one of the best in the business. An emotional depth that staggers, built on guilt, identity, one's place in the world, what's right and what's wrong. The Only Good Indians has it all: style, elevation, reality, the unreal, revenge, warmth, freezing cold, and even some slashing. In other words, the book is made up of everything Stephen Graham Jones seemingly explores and, in turn, everything the rest of us want to explore with him."

—Josh Malerman, New York Times bestselling author of Bird Box and A House at the Bottom of a Lake.

"How long must we pay for our mistakes, for our sins? Does a thoughtless act doom us for eternity? This is a novel of profound insight and horror, rich with humor and intelligence. The Only Good Indians is a triumph; somehow it’s a great story and also a meditation on stories. I've wondered who would write a worthy heir to Peter Straub's Ghost Story. Now I know the answer: Stephen Graham Jones."

—Victor LaValle, author of The Ballad of Black Tom and The Changeling

Awards and Honors

  • ALA Alex Award

Resources and Downloads

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More books from this author: Stephen Graham Jones

More books from this reader: Shaun Taylor-Corbett