Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden (2005)
At the start of the novel (the first in the Bird Family trilogy), we meet an aging Cree woman waiting at a train station to meet a wounded soldier returning from World War I. The story unfolds from there, from both of their perspectives and in several timelines, as we learn about both of their against-all-odds fights for survival — hers trying to keep the old ways, and his staying alive and sane in the trenches. I enjoyed both sets of stories, but the close, but increasingly fraught, friendship between the soldier and his childhood best friend was particularly compelling, as their physical and psychological health is tested in the War.
Note: In recent years, there has been some controversy in Indigenous circles about Boyden’s claims to his ancestry and ability to authentically speak ‘for’ Indigenous culture and communities. I am in no position to speak to this issue one way or the other, however I feel it’s important at least to bring it up as context for his writings, which are, on their own merits, excellent.
Read this if you’re interested in:
- World War One
- Canadian History
- Indigenous History
- Mental Health
My Rating, 9/10
Strangers, David A. Robertson (2019), 9/10: This is the first installment in the YA ‘The Reckoner’ series. Our hero, Cole, is a high-school student carrying a lot of anxiety and guilt following a traumatic event ten years earlier in his small Indigenous community. When he gets an urgent message telling him to return home, he has to face his past in more ways than one — especially when people start dying all around him. (Indigenous Perspectives, Fantasy, YA, Tricksters)
Wretched Waterpark, Kiersten White (2022), 6/10: In this middle grade mystery, three siblings are sent to spend the Summer with their strange aunt, who sends them every day to a macabre waterpark with the instructions to “find what has been lost.” While it may hit differently for its intended audience, this book really didn’t work for me. I found all of the characters pretty unlikable, the mystery uninteresting, and the resolution profoundly unsatisfying. (Middle Grade, Spooky Season, Unattended Minors Having Adventures)
The Book of the Most Precious Substance, Sara Gran (2022), 8.5/10: Here’s the setup: An author-turned-bookseller, struggling under the emotional and financial weight of caring for her husband who is living with early-onset dementia, is tasked with tracking down a very rare magical text, and in the process receives a new lease on life. In some ways this is a very typical story about ‘normal’ people getting sucked in by the allure of mystery, the chase, money, and power. But while it may lack a bit in originality, I found it to be a fun, intriguing, and ultimately satisfying read. (Grief and Loss, Books about Books, Dark Magic, Sex Magic)
One Drum, Richard Wagamese (2019), 8/10: This work, which seeks to make Ojibwe spirituality accessible to all readers, was one of the major projects Wagamese was working on at the time of his death, and was published unfinished so that at least what he had completed could be shared. The project was intended to provide stories and ceremonies covering all of the Seven Grandfather Teachings of the Anishinaabek (humility, respect, courage, wisdom, honesty, love, and truth), however only the first three of these were written at the time of his death. What we do have is beautiful, but it definitely leaves me wanting more! (Indigenous Perspectives, Ojibwe/Anishinaabe Culture, Spirituality)
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