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21610103,075 (3.58)23
Monkey Beach meets Green Grass, Running Water meets The Beachcombers in this wise and funny novel by a debut Cree author Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC. She is on something of a vision quest, seeking to understand the messages from The Frugal Gourmet (one of the only television shows available on CBC North) that come to her in her dreams. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat Johns, who played Jesse on The Beachcombers, because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Bernice heads for Molly's Reach to find answers but they are not the ones she expected. With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Bernice finds the strength to face the past and draw the lessons from her dreams that she was never fully taught in life. Part road trip, dream quest and travelogue, the novel touches on the universality of women's experience, regardless of culture or race.… (more)
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    Windflower by Gabrielle Roy (charlie68)
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    Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden (charlie68)
    charlie68: Both highlight the clashing of indigenous and North American culture.
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» See also 23 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 10 (next | show all)
My daughter bought me this book for my birthday/Christmas gift. I was stoked to read an Indigenous book by a Canadian Indigenous author, being an Indigenous Canadian myself.
I connected to this amazing story in so many ways. I saw myself in Birdie. I'm sure a lot of us do. I also saw myself in Freda though, and not just in name. The story of these five women was powerful. It was told in the most interesting way, I feel like it is still resonating through me as I write this review.
Pretty incredible debut novel!
Miigwetch to my daughter for gifting it to me! ( )
  fredamans | Dec 22, 2021 |
I am so sad about putting this book down. What I read of it I really liked. It was heavy with emotion and meaning and definitely something I want to finish sometime in the future...but it's just not working out for me right now. I'm sad to be putting it aside for now but my brain is just not feeling it.
  katebrarian | Jul 28, 2020 |
Birdie is a gut-punch of a book.

But it's a hard one to talk about, given the history of indigenous peoples in Canada, and our current political fixation on the plight of native women. (Please note that any criticism here is directed to the fetishization of one cause at a time. The plight is real and serious and deserves to be dealt with, not just in 2015 and 2016 because it became momentarily trendy among progressives, but all the time, until it's solved.)

So what this isn't, is an Issue novel. Or a novel about The Evils of Colonialism. Although the issues are there, as are the generational impacts of Colonialism on Canada's native people.

It's the story of how centuries of all this crap landed right on the head of one young girl, who dealt with trauma after trauma until she couldn't, and she ... disintegrated. Psychologically. It's presented in the text in very indigenous terms, in Cree terms, and that is certainly how it was experienced by the protagonist and other characters; it could be understood as the vision quest as written, or as PTSD coming home to roost in spectacular fashion, or both (I tend to both).

Birdie felt very real to me, as did all of her friends and family. The writing is very assured, very sophisticated, for a debut. It's incredible.

Some previous reviews have criticized the tenuous grip on time and chronology, particularly in the first sections. Personally I didn't have any trouble with it. Of course her grasp of time and chronology is tenuous; she's stuck in bed with a massive, massive depression as a result of PTSD and going through flashback after flashback. This does not make for tidy story-telling.

Some previous reviews have also criticized the other characters on a moral level. I can see where they're coming from, but it's not a criticism I share. Yes, the people surrounding Birdie fail her on every level, even the ones who love her, even the ones whose job it is to protect her. They're human and they fuck up, terribly, and then they come back to try to save her when it may be too little too late. I don't feel, myself, that the book let them off the hook for this, only that Birdie is exceptionally forgiving and was able to see the good in them.

I couldn't put it down, which is pretty amazing when you consider that the actual novel is about a woman who is very depressed and goes to bed for a month. It doesn't sound compelling, plot-wise, but the unfolding back-and-forth of the flashbacks, the unspooling of her history, and the tremendous investment of the reader (at least this reader) in whether or not she will be able to continue coping with the cumulative impact of what she has experienced, was very compelling.

I highly recommend Birdie, and I hope it continues to be widely read and discussed for decades, not just while Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women are on the front pages of our newspapers. ( )
  andrea_mcd | Mar 10, 2020 |
I wanted to read the Canada Reads nominees so picked this book up. I am not sure how to describe my reading experience.

There was a lot of back and forth in time in this book that sometimes confused me. The lives of Birdie (Bernice), Maggie, Val, Skinny Freda and Lola were told from Bernice's point of view, but did not mince words. Violence, sexual abuse, mental health issues and family difficulties were dealt with in this story. Each chapter had some sort of dream in it that gave you some idea of the native culture and Bernice's take on it. It was not an easy read, but all in all, I am glad I read it. ( )
  Carlathelibrarian | Feb 5, 2019 |
This book is about the strength of women, often, because we don't have a choice. ( )
  Jolynne | Mar 20, 2018 |
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For Cindy
To all of the mothers and little mothers, sisters and cousins who are murdered, missing, disappeared or who feel invisible.  We are one.  We are with you.  We are family.
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Maggie sits in the old tavern, amongst friends.
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Monkey Beach meets Green Grass, Running Water meets The Beachcombers in this wise and funny novel by a debut Cree author Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC. She is on something of a vision quest, seeking to understand the messages from The Frugal Gourmet (one of the only television shows available on CBC North) that come to her in her dreams. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat Johns, who played Jesse on The Beachcombers, because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Bernice heads for Molly's Reach to find answers but they are not the ones she expected. With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Bernice finds the strength to face the past and draw the lessons from her dreams that she was never fully taught in life. Part road trip, dream quest and travelogue, the novel touches on the universality of women's experience, regardless of culture or race.

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