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Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Three Day Road (original 2005; edition 2005)

by Joseph Boyden

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Title:Three Day Road
Authors:Joseph Boyden
Info:Penguin Books (2005), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:fiction, ww1, memory, race, body, barbara

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Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden (2005)


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English (46)  French (3)  Dutch (2)  Italian (1)  All languages (52)
Showing 1-5 of 46 (next | show all)
[Three Day Road], Joseph Boyden’s 20095 debut novel, is a narrative born of war in the tradition of [All Quiet on the Western Front] or [The Naked and the Dead]. It is uncomfortable reading. The stench of rotting bodies steams off of every page. You can feel the mud of the trenches pulling you deeper into the madness. What is different about Boyden’s novel is the eyes through whom he tells the story – a Cree soldier, born of the Ontario plains of Canada.

Xavier Bird and his mystic aunt, Niska, share the pages, each telling a different piece of Xaiver’s tale. Xavier recounts his journey of fire: canoeing through a forest fire to enlist, learning the deadly life of a sniper, and losing his leg in a mortar attack. Niska relates Xavier’s young life: rescuing him from a Catholic school where the nuns were trying to violently beat his origins out of him, teaching him a life controlled by the land around them, and introducing him to the spirits of his ancestors. Both tales are told as Niska takes Xavier home again, picking him up from the railhead. When she retrieves him, Xavier is missing a leg and is deeply addicted to heroin. Both talk through the three day canoe trip, each hoping to lead Xavier back to his lost soul.

Boyd captured the brutal life of a trench soldier in World War I, an event so far removed from our shared experience that it strains the imagination. Often, the accounts of Xavier’s exploits are overly brutal, designed to prove evil of war in any age. And balanced against the harsh life of the Canadian plains, there is little room to breathe. So, the principal criticism here is that Boyd’s story is a constant assault on the senses. But the heart of the story, the battle for Xavier’s sanity and soul, is gripping.

Bottom Line: Though an assault on the senses, the gripping story is told from a unique and interesting perspective.

4 bones!!!!! ( )
  blackdogbooks | Apr 13, 2014 |
Haunting, immersive story of two Canadian Cree Indians who sign up as soldiers and enter the hell-on-earth of World War I. Told at trench level, with all the mud and gore, by Xavier Bird, whose reticence and distaste for slaughter contrasts with his friend Elijah's growing bloodlust. The simple ways of the bush-hunter heritage of the Cree is represented evocatively by old Niska, Xavier's guardian aunt and windigo-killer, whose sad life story we hear, a story all-to reflective of the despoiled ways of the native tribes of America. ( )
  JamesMScott | Mar 17, 2014 |
Elijah and Xavier are native childhood friends growing to young manhood in the bush near Moose Factory in northern Ontario under the guidance of Xavier’s aunt, the Windigo (cannibal) killer. Elijah is talkative and brave. Xavier is more thoughtful, more like his auntie, but the better shot, the better hunter, the one who teaches Elijah the ways of the bush after Elijah’s formative and damaging experience in the residential school he was forced to attend. When Canada enters a great war in a foreign land, Elijah convinces Xavier to travel south with him to a town large enough where they can join up. They will become hunters of men, scouts and snipers, in the blasted mud of no-man’s-land between the lines of trenches in WWI. It is a life that Elijah takes to with abandon, drawing on his friend who remains the better shot. But it is truly not a land for men and in time Elijah loses himself as the madness of blood takes him. Almost inevitably, Xavier is forced to fulfil his birthright as the next generation of Windigo killer.

The story of Elijah and Xavier’s journey is told in retrospect after Xavier’s arrival home from the front minus a leg and with a crushing morphine addiction. His auntie aids him in recovering himself, slowly, as they wind their way by canoe back from town to their home in the deep bush. Together they will make a further journey of spirit, opening up the possibility of a future for both Xavier and his tribe.

The writing here is never less than crisp and mature, despite this being a first novel. The archetypal storyline, twinned and twisted helix-like, lends strength to the sometimes predictable action. But the action here should be predictable since we are in the land of the near-mythic. And Boyden rarely puts a foot wrong. Although there is a great deal here of life in the trenches and the land between, always the more interesting part of the tale is the account of Xavier’s earlier life and especially that of his auntie. It offers an insight into native engagement in Canada’s military struggles without pretending to give a final rendering. Warmly recommended. ( )
  RandyMetcalfe | Feb 20, 2014 |
Three Day Road joins Boyden's latest, The Orenda, in my top five or so favorite books that I have ever read. Boyden is incredibly talented. He just has a way of drawing the reader into the book's world. I could clearly see the characters, the war-torn First World War setting, and the events unfolding as if before my eyes. Boyden is excellent at providing real, flawed people and believable situations. His books do not follow the typical formula of most other literature: there will be no twist at the end, no defeating some villain, no happily wrapped-up situation. Instead, his books provide a series of slices in time that take the reader on a journey. His books are all relatively easy to read, since the reader is continuously faced with the thoughts and statements of the characters instead of a traditional narrator, so there is no room for flashy, over-the-top prose. The books are liberally sprinkled with violence, but it is very important to note that the violence is not there to shock the reader, as is often the case. Instead, the violence is an often (always?) unwanted part of the world in which the characters live. In this book, the raw, disturbing violence of the First World War is clearly presented to the reader. Boyden is not afraid to show the reality of terrible situations to his readers and glorifies absolutely nothing.

I really hope that Boyden's The Orenda wins Canada Reads 2014 and that he becomes what he deserves to be: a Classic Canadian author. ( )
  ScribbleKey | Feb 18, 2014 |
An excellent novel of World War I from a different perspective. Xavier Bird has come home from the war to his aunt Niska, missing a leg and addicted to morphine. As she paddles him back to her camp, she tells stories of her past and of his youth, and he remembers the horrors of the war and his best friend Elijah. Moving, beautifully told, sad, but a really good read. ( )
  tloeffler | Oct 3, 2013 |
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We walk through the snow, follow our trail out to the traplines by the willows.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0143037072, Paperback)

Joseph Boyden's first novel is the story of two Cree friends, Xavier and Elijah, who leave their pristine northern country to end up in the horrific trenches of World War I. Loosely based on the real life of a famous Canadian sniper, the story is told from two first-person views: those of Xavier and his old aunt and only living relative, Niska. After the war, Niska is taking her wounded nephew back home north to the bush in a canoe. Their trip is the three-day road of the title, which also refers to the journey taken after death. The story of the war is told in flashbacks on this journey as Xavier recovers from morphine addiction. Niska also relates various stories to Xavier, believing there is "medicine in the tale."

Boyden is a natural storyteller. Both the Native tales of the north and the grim accounts of the war in France and Belgium have the ring of truth. His images can be subtly appropriate--raiders who go over the top are "eaten by the night"--and his characterizations are excellent, especially the three main players and Xavier's Canadian trenchmates. Eventually, Elijah seems to feed on the death all around him, becoming a "windigo," while Xavier begins to question the sanity of the war and his friend's growing madness, realizing "we all fight on two fronts, the one facing the enemy, the one facing what we do to the enemy." Not for the squeamish reader, this is a powerful novel that takes a new angle on a popular subject, "the war to end all wars." --Mark Frutkin, Amazon.ca

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:55:17 -0400)

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"...It is 1919 and Niska, an Oji-Cree medicine woman, has left her home in the bush of northern Ontario to recieve Xavier Bird, her only relation who has returned from the trenches of Europe.Gravely wounded and addicted to morphine, Xavier recounts how he and his best friend, Elijah Whiskeyjack, prowled the battlefields as snipers of enormous skill and how the circumstances of their deadly craft led them to very different fates.Told with unblinking focus, this is a stunning tale of brutality, survival, and rebirth that marks the arrival of a prodigious new talent." From the bookjacket.… (more)

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