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The Rope Catcher is an historical novel largely set on the Navajo reservation during the years 1942-1950. It follows the adventures of Jimmie Goodluck, a young man who enlists in the Marines to escape the poverty and hopelessness of the reservation.
As a Marine, Jimmie finds acceptance, respect, and assimilation into the white world that was unavailable to him before. He becomes the leader of an all-Navajo platoon which is ordered to create and implement a code based on the Navajo language. As a Navajo code talker, Jimmie and his buddy Ray find themselves in action on Guadalcanal, Bougainville, Saipan, and Iwo Jima. There they send and receive messages in the only code the Japanese could never break.
After the war, Jimmie returns to the reservation, where he is thrust back into the life of prejudice and lack of opportunity he'd left behind four years earlier. He realizes he is back to being a US citizen in name only. Though he nearly gave his life for his country, he cannot even vote.
How Jimmie copes with his situation and struggles to overcome the odds against him is the arc of this novel. Along the way he falls in love, strives to achieve his dreams, and finds a way to reach his father with whom he has shared a turbulent past.
In part the first and only accurate dramatization of how the code was created and used, The Rope Catcher deals in greater measure with the turbulent changes that swept over the Navajo nation in the 1940ís. The story, which encompasses war, romance, family tension, disillusionment, and redemption, is exhaustingly researched and driven by strong characters: real and fictional, male and female, Anglo and Navajo. It is a journey of self-discovery told from Jimmieís point of view, yet it addresses universal and timely themes that resonate within us all.