Thursday, October 15, 2009

Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

In the Northern town of Moosonee, Ontario, Will Bird, a former bush pilot, lies in a coma. Once a legend, the weakened Cree man is left in the hospital, haunted by memories of residential school and the choices of his past. His niece, Annie decides to drop by, after spending eight months in a different world. In hopes that he will awaken, she decides to expose the details of the time they spent apart. For a year, Annie ventured south and struggled to find her sister, Suzanne, who had slipped away into the city life. Annie’s decision to follow her tracks led to a trap, one laced with drugs, alcohol and modelling. In her Northern life, she is independent and mysterious, keeping the traditions of her people alive by living off the land. But her knowledge of the bush does not help her in Toronto and she must fight to survive. As Will listens to his niece, he begins to drift back into his memories of flying, goose hunting and drinking beer on the river bank. Joseph Boyden weaves the stories of two generations together to illustrate the changing nature of Canada’s indigenous peoples. This novel is a stunning explanation of what it means to hold on to identity and keep a family together. It is the worthy winner of 2008’s Giller Prize. Recommended for grades 10-12.

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