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The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel by…
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The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel (2007)

by Drew Hayden Taylor

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Tiffany Hunter is dealing with a lot. She lives in Otter Lake, an Anishinabe (Ojibwa) reservation in central Ontario with her dad and grandmother. She's doing poorly in school, she fights with her dad constantly, and to make matters even more difficult she is trying to navigate a new relationship with a white boyfriend. Demons and ghost stories are the last thing on her mind—but they're the center of everything for Pierre L’Errant, the new boarder Tiffany's father has just taken into their home. Though from Europe, he is clearly Native, and mentions he is of Anishinabe ancestry. But who is he really, and where did he come from? Why has he come to Otter Lake, of all places? In The Night Wanderer, Drew Hayden Taylor gives us a new and refreshing twist on the centuries-old legend of the vampire.

The more I thought about this book, the more I liked it. At its heart, it is about home and family. Tiffany struggles with this, as she is constantly battling with her father over pretty much anything, though especially about her boyfriend Tony. There are a lot of underlying issues with this, as Tiffany's mother left her father, Keith, for a white man about a year earlier. Keith is still trying to recover, and unfortunately he isn't getting very far. He doesn't know how to handle his daughter, so he lets out his anger and pain on her—and she returns it full force. Stuck in the middle of this is Granny Ruth, Keith's mother. She's feisty, but is trying to deal with all of this pain and anger and not-talking-about-the-real-issue on her own, until Pierre enters the picture.

Pierre is a character we can sympathize with, though we're not sure we can trust him. His motives aren't clear until the very end. But what is clear is his attachment to his homeland, the place where he was born centuries before, when he made the decision to leave it and everything he knew for adventure and the unknown. He is not the tortured vampire struggling with what he is at his very essence, though there are hints that he has thought about it. He knows what he is and accepts it, which is truly a nice change from the brooding bad-boy vampire so popular in today's teen fiction.

Taylor works Anishinabe (more commonly known as Ojibwa) culture and language into Pierre's and Tiffany's intersecting stories—both in the modern and more ancient culture and teen experiences. Tiffany is trying to sort out what it means to be a part of her native community, often trying to escape it, though sometimes feeling guilty for not knowing more than she does (for example, she can't speak the language, like her grandmother). Usually I am hesitant to read fiction about certain cultures, especially Native American ones, for fear of misrepresentation of the people and the history. But because Taylor is Ojibwa himself, I trusted his descriptions and allowed myself to enjoy the story, knowing it is authentic. He also manages to include an interracial relationship and its resulting difficulties, such as racism and Tiffany's discomfort at being the only Native teen in a group of white ones.

Another thing I loved are the sometimes surprising little dashes of humor Taylor throws into his prose every so often. I found myself sporting a quick grin at many little details he includes, like this sentence in the middle of a suspenseful scene: "From deep in the bush, a hunter older than James, his house, and the mayonnaise at the back of his refrigerator all put together watched him closely" (79). But despite this comic relief, there are a few chapter that got my heart pounding—many strange and unnatural things are seen on the Otter Lake Reservation after Pierre arrives.

My only complaints lie with the characterization of Tiffany. For a while I felt like she was too flat of a character—I wasn't really getting where she was coming from, and she just seemed a bit off through the beginning. It took me a while to get into the book because it was mostly about Tiffany at first. However, once Taylor started writing about Pierre and other characters, I could see his talent better. I found out afterward that this was originally written as a play, and I thought that might have had something to do with it.

These days, everyone is sick of vampires and their sparkles and forbidden love interests in virginal white girls. But with his fresh interpretation and the addition of family drama and the importance of home, Taylor has given us a reason to enjoy vampire novels again. ( )
  Tahleen | Feb 16, 2014 |
This was a loan from my father, who thought I might like to use it in a class some day. I don't know. It's a fairly basic troubled-Anishnabe-teen story bolted to a fairly basic paranormal story. There is a little twist at the end, but our heroine Tiffany's life never came alive for me; there's her nurturing, wise, Anishnabe-speaking grandmother, her troubled single dad, her problems with her white boyfriend, her dislike of school - it just never gelled into anything beyond a teen-book-of-the-week for me, despite the reserve setting. She's not very charismatic or interesting, and I get that she's having a rough week, but all she does is whine. ( )
  Cynara | Jan 2, 2012 |
*Contains Spoilers*

I thought this was an interesting read and it's not something I usually pick up. This was the first book I've read where the paranormal guy in the book was actually creepy (I suppose The Historian may count too but since I basically just skimmed most of that book, including the parts about Dracula, I can't really say.). One of the strange things, though, is that even though Pierre is a vampire who does not mind killing humans, he still came across as a good guy because of his fasting. I could buy that he was a typical, Dracula-type vampire if it was just the fasting, but Pierre was also pretty nice to Tiffany (more so than necessary) and he helped out her and her family even when there was no reason for him to get involved. I couldn't understand his motive and I felt that it really contradicted the image that I thought the author wanted to give of Pierre, which was that he was not the usual "human-souled" vampire that you typically see in YA lit. But I don't know-I suppose without Pierre's involvement in family matters, he wouldn't have come across as such a sympathetic character, and it's important to think of him as such in order to get the full effect at the close of the last chapter.

I really liked reading about the Native mythology. I wish the author had included more of that. He only described a couple of myths very briefly. It was the first time I ever read about the legend of the wendigo. I had heard about it before on an episode of Supernatural (awesome show!) but I hadn't come across anything about wendigos since. It's really not that common of a myth, which is a shame because I think the story's really interesting.

One problem that I had with the book, though, is the fact that Drew Hayden Taylor does not know how to write about teenage girls. Tiffany came across as so cliche that she never seemed real to me. Also, Taylor would have a character think something and then say the exact same thing out loud, which was unnecessarily repetitive. This happened a few times and it got a little annoying. ( )
1 vote Kayla-Marie | Apr 6, 2011 |
A young First Nations girl, disaffected and aimless, encounters a stranger who’s come home after a very long time, though his mystery is far less important to her than the fact that her mother left the family to go live with a white man in the city and her own budding-yet-troubled relationship with a white boy. A lot of the writing was tell-y in a way I don’t like now but wouldn’t have noticed (or would have liked) as a teen, e.g., “This was Tiffany’s first real relationship and she was nervous, though again she would never let Tony know.” But there were flashes of fun: “From deep in the bush, a hunter older than James, his house, and the mayonnaise at the back of his refrigerator all put together watched him closely.” Tiffany was a believably annoying teen, and this wasn’t a vampire romance; despite the supernatural element, there were no miracles, only perhaps some hope at the end. Overall I enjoyed it. ( )
  rivkat | Oct 28, 2010 |
Personal Response:

Vampires are still all the rage, and this book has enough in common with Twilight to recommend it to fans. The book does offer a unique take with a Native American vampire.

Curricular or Programming Connections:
  hsollom | Aug 10, 2010 |
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(Prologue) One day, down by a slow-flowing river, an ancient Anishinabe (Ojibwa) man was sitting under a tree, teaching his beloved grandchildren about the ways of life.
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Annick Press

2 editions of this book were published by Annick Press.

Editions: 1554510996, 1554511003

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