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Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden
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Through Black Spruce (2008)

by Joseph Boyden

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9344414,515 (4.06)267
Cree bush pilot Will Bird lies comatose in a hospital, while his wayward niece Annie arrives to sit in silent vigil by his side. Slowly their stories reveal two people previously separated by great distances, beaten and broken, and searching for some sense of where they belong in the world.
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» See also 267 mentions

English (42)  Dutch (1)  French (1)  All languages (44)
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
A very interesting account if two different worlds coexisting in one universe. ( )
  cryczak232 | Jul 26, 2019 |
Three Day Road, Boyden's breathtaking novel, is one of my favorite books, and I was really excited to read Boyden's latest. He is a wonderful writer who takes the reader into the world of Native Canadians, then brings us along as his characters interact with the "southern" world.

This book has two main characters, an uncle and his niece, and they tell their entwined stories in alternating chapters. As I finished each chapter I wanted to continue with that narrator, but then I became engrossed with the alternate narrator, and marveled as the story advanced and the past and the present met and completed the story. It is a wonderful story, perhaps not as heartbreaking and soaring as 3DR, but a satisfying read nonetheless.

As an aside, Boyden is a charming and entertaining speaker, so if you ever have the chance to see him read/talk, go! ( )
  Rdra1962 | Aug 1, 2018 |
I loved this book, as I have all books by Joseph Boyden. The characters in the story were complex, conflicted, dysfunctional. The place where they lived in the North was a fascinating and frightening environment. I was mesmerized from start to finish. ( )
  CarolBurrows | Feb 24, 2018 |
So beautifully written - Native Canadian uncle and his niece of the Cree tribe alternate chapters providing back story for how he landed in the hospital in a coma, and how she searched for her model sister from home to Toronto and eventually to New York City.

The words were mesmerizing and there was enough of a mystery to the story line to keep me very involved. Readers of this very worthwhile book should be aware that there is some violence towards animals. ( )
  njinthesun | Nov 9, 2017 |
Will bird is a Cree bush pilot. The novel opens with him, lying in a coma. Annie Bird is his niece, who visits him in the hospital. How these two people ended up here, is how the story is structured, as the narrative shifts from Will to Annie. I much preferred the Will part of the tale, with his laconic, Cree wisdom and stunning descriptions of life in the wilderness, but the book is well-written and captures life in upper-Canada, in a vivid, robust style. Fans of Louise Erdrich should really like this author. ( )
  msf59 | Aug 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
The winner of the 2008 Giller Prize, Canada's top literary award, has just been released in the United States, where I suspect the response will be mixed. Much of this novel reflects its crisp, poetic title, but overall the quality of "Through Black Spruce" wobbles erratically, and what's weakest about the book is its depiction of what we know best: American depravity....This is powerful and powerfully told, but the novel as a whole is weakened by the other story running through Will's.
 
Joseph Boyden won huge critical acclaim with his first novel, Three Day Road, which concerns the First World War experience of Elijah Weesageechak and Xavier Bird, two Cree hunters who fought as snipers with a Canadian regiment. In it, Boyden brought a fresh angle to a well-trodden subject. Now, in Through Black Spruce, he connects these protagonists to explore the overarching theme of addiction and trauma....But the novel weakens when Annie narrates her search for Suzanne, a celebrity model, in Toronto and New York. Manhattan is full of clichés: Soleil the society hostess who toys with newcomers, the coke-head models, the tough-guy drug dealers. It makes a dull contrast to the vivid scenes in the northern wilderness. His characters are most moving when revelations occur in small, quiet moments.
 
Early on in Through Black Spruce, the follow-up to Joseph Boyden’s bestselling first novel, Three Day Road, former bush pilot Will Bird reflects on a recurring dream he used to have some 30 years ago....Boyden is definitely a gifted storyteller. His narrative progresses with practiced ease until, very near the end, it falters in a climax that is pure melodrama – after which, I’m sad to say, the story unravels into a threadbare epilogue: a disappointing finale that does little justice to the rest of the novel.
 
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AMANDA
Nisakihakan

JACOB
Nkosis

WILLIAM AND PAMELA
Kotakiyak Nicishanu
First words
When there was no Pepsi left for my rye whisky, nieces, there was always ginger ale.
Quotations
The humming of a living body, pike or sturgeon, ruffed grouse or moose or human, when it passes to death, the beat of that heart continues, in a lesser way maybe, but it joins the heartbeat of the day and the night. Of our world. When I was younger I believed that the northern lights, the electricity I felt on my skin under my parka, the faint crackle of it in my ears, was Gitchi Manitou collecting the vibrations of lives spent, refuelling the world with these animals’ power.
I want to sit up, put my feet on the floor, close the distance between us, and crawl into his bed. My hand moves to him at the thought of it. I imagine my mouth on his smooth torso. His jutting ribs. His scars. I picture being under a blanket with him, our limbs wrapped around each other, not wanting to let go. He wouldn’t let go. It wouldn’t be hard to lift my leg up and off my own bed. First leg would go, the other following easy. Body follows. Bodies follow.
Lots of times growing up, I'd just try to do something myself because I believed that being a boy, and being Indian, I should just know how to do things. My father understood that my pride would take its course and I'd end up learning two lessons at once. The less painful road was always to just ask him how to do something when I could stomach it, but more important, that to fail at doing something, whether it was surviving a snowstorm or trying to catch fish, meant that pride can kill you, or at the very least make you so hungry you could cry. Learn from your elders. Yes.
I guess we all have our favourite childhood memories. Mine burn inside me like red coals. A cold autumn evening there on the shores of the big water, our canvas prospector's tent glowing by lantern light against the night, the air cold on my cheeks as my moshum, your father, sits with me on a boulder overlooking the water. ... Moshum sits with me and points out how the bay has absorbed the light. He gives names to the stars that appear. North Star. Hunter's Star. Going Home Star. He speaks slow in Cree, the words magic and long, a part of me.
“They are the same stars you see anywhere you go in the world, little Niska,” he says. This name, Niska, Little Goose, has always been his pet name for me. “My own auntie told me that,” Moshum says, “but I didn't learn it until I travelled far away. And now I teach it to you.” I remembered those words. Remember them to this day.
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From internationally acclaimed author Joseph Boyden comes an astonishingly powerful novel of contemporary aboriginal life, full of the dangers and harsh beauty of both forest and city. When beautiful Suzanne Bird disappears, her sister Annie, a loner and hunter, is compelled to search for her, leaving behind their uncle Will, a man haunted by loss.While Annie travels from Toronto to New York, from modelling studios to A-list parties,Will encounters dire troubles at home. Both eventually come to painful discoveries about the inescapable ties of family. Through Black Spruce is an utterly unforgettable consideration of how we discover who we really are.
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