Through Black Spruce

Thoughts  tbsbjb Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden, Viking 2008, 359 pages, Winner of the Scotiabank GILLER PRIZE

MOTIVATION for READING: This is a classic BOOK-FOUND-ME example.    I was cruising through blogland, found a post somewhere on Alexie’s The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian, bounced to a blogger who had commented on that, saw another comment suggesting this book, opened up the InterLibraryLoan website and requested it.     Since it was a library book, I HAD to read it and not throw it under the bed for “some day.”       Maybe it is more of a ‘Follow the Breadcrumbs’ example.

WHAT IT’s ABOUT:    How to describe this….    It’s about a guy, Will Bird, who has been a bush-pilot in Northern Ontario;   he’s maybe what they call Native American (even in Canada?   Am I US-centric or what?!)  Ok, he’s Cree.     And we are in his thoughts while he shares what’s been going on with him as if in a letter to his sister’s two daughters.     In the meantime, we are introduced to Annie, one of the nieces and she’s trying to talk this uncle into waking up from a coma.    Am I sharing too much?    Annie is tough – she lives off the land with her wits and smarts.   And yet somehow she goes on a trip to Toronto and NYC, lives the life of a fashion model and finds herself a mute guy with whom she has an interesting relationship and he is also quite endearing.    And we have a sister who is missing (Annie’s, so the other niece), some BAAAAaad dudes, some awesome friends, some old school Indians and most of this was a pleasure.   Although it has some very brutal violence to propel the story along.

WHAT’s GOOD: I was so impressed!   I loved the story construct:  this overlapping, intertwining of memories between uncle and niece.    We go back and forth and yet in two different points or spans of time that somehow meet at the end.      I loved Annie – she’s kickass and true to her roots and she’s cool.    Will is a dear, too and you can’t help but root for the guy.      I also love how they said, “Ever!”  a lot.      I enjoyed this exposure to a different culture in a different part of the world.

WHAT’s NOT so GOOD: Tiny, picky?      I don’t quite love the ending.   It works; but it just seemed to run out of steam a bit and wrap up.   But overall, I loved this book very much.      Oh yea, in the beginning, I almost started keeping track of how many times I read “Black Spruce”.    OK, I get it!    Certainly these issue of mine are not worth  you not trying this book if it intrigues you in the slightest.

FINAL THOUGHTS: Though the story resolution was not as strong for me as the building of the tension of what the mystery is all about, I loved the weaving together of the conversations to each other even though they have no idea the other is listening.   Sort of .     Here’s what I wrote in

“A skillfully constructed story told by weaving two characters memories together. Quiet yet packed with violence.”

I’m going to add LOVE, too.   The respect and love that this family holds for each other and their heritage is strong and affirming.

RATING: Four Pie Slices of Fruit of the Forest Pie


Softdrink reviewed this in May.


12 thoughts on “Through Black Spruce

  1. I’ve been wanting to read this one ever since I first heard of it! Rich and I went to Moosenee and Moose Factory for our 10th anniversary present to ourselves. Ooooooh, I could buy this as a gift for him, and not have to break my buying ban…yes, yes, yes–what a clever idea, Debi. Anyway, back to your review…like I said, I’ve been wanting to read this one for months and months, but now I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want to read it! Your review totally rocked, Care…I feel like I have a much better feel for the book than I did before. Many thanks! 😀

  2. Ever!

    I’m so happy to see another review of this! There’s a sort of prequel to it, that tell the story of Will Bird’s father after he returns from WWI. I’m almost afraid to read it though, for fear I’ll be disappointed after Black Spruce.

    And First Nations is the Canadian equivalent of Native American.

    1. Ever! (actually, this might become my go-to phrase when I want to leave a comment but don’t know what to say…)
      Thank you for explaining the First Nations. I don’t believe I’ve ever heard of that before.

  3. This does sound good! I also like the trail that led you to it, and softdrink’s indication that there’s a prequel (I know what she means … sometimes it’s better to leave the ‘before’ and ‘after’ to your imagination).

    Tell me you were only kidding about storing books under your bed!

    1. I love the stories of how books come into my life. And I like the odd connections between books but they are harder to remember for some reason.
      No, I don’t really store any books under the bed. But I do have a few books that I bought and soon forgot.

  4. Jackie – I wish you luck in finding it; and hearing what you have to say when/if you read it.

    Marie – due dates are great motivators!

    Nicole – I really did enjoy this. I really felt for all of the characters.

    Kathy/BermudaOnion – oh yes! The cover shows an ENTIRE person – amazing.

    Debi – You must read this book if you’ve travelled there. How very cool!

    Jill, Dawn – thanks for stopping by. Ever!

  5. Pingback: Green Grass Running Water « Care's Online Book Club

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