Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

First published by Penguin Canada © 2008 (Giller Prize Winner – 2008)

Truth be told, I just finished studying this novel in one of my classes but I really enjoyed it and I wanted to share it with people who may not be as familiar with the Canadian authour, Joseph Boyden. Of course I would write my first ‘review’ on Canadian literature, I’m patriotic like that, sue me. Through Black Spruce includes characters from Boyden’s first novel, Three Day Road. I will admit that I haven’t read Three Day Road but I will be adding it to the (long) list of books I need to read.

Overall, I really enjoyed this novel. It is rooted in Canadian Indigenous tradition and culture and I think that is what I liked most about it. There is a dual narrative between the two main characters Will Bird, and one of his nieces, Annie. It’s difficult to talk about the plot without giving key points in the novel away, but I’m going to do my best to keep you interested.

It is 400 pages, so it isn’t a quick read by any means. The dual narrative between Annie and Will is separated by chapters, so I found as soon as I finished reading Annie’s account, I needed to read on into Will’s story. Needless to say, this pattern continues for a while until it’s 4:30 am and you’ve got to be up in 3 hours. Ugh life, right? Anyway, Annie and Will are telling their stories of their past year apart, as well as family history and the history of their town in Northern Ontario, Moosonee. I studied this book in an Indigenous Narratives class so a lot of what I was paying attention to was the colonizer and the influence of ‘modern’ Canadian culture on traditional Aboriginal life. The contrasts between Toronto, Montreal, and New York with Moosonee are everywhere in Annie’s narrative. She becomes completely engulfed by the city, a place in which she didn’t grow up or care to go. Will goes somewhere completely opposite to the city after an event that completely changes their town and their family.

I really liked this book and was incredibly surprised by how it affected me. This entire course I took changed the way I look at Indigenous literature and Aboriginal culture within Canada.

Please let me know what you think of my first official post and if you’ve read the novel. I would love to hear from you!


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