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Reading

Through Black Spruce

Based on both the work of Gil Adamson and Joseph Boyden's new novel, Through Black Spruce, one may come to the realization that all Canadian writers are pleasing to read. Given these examples, one wouldn't be incorrect.

Book Digest As I was reading and immensely enjoying Through Black Spruce (Viking), Canadian author Joseph Boyden’s newest opus, I came to the realization that I never read something by a Canadian writer that I didn’t find pleasing. That is a topic for another time, but Through Black Spruce reminded me how much I liked Canadian Gil Adamson’s The Outlander, though they are not much alike (except for a pervasive sense of the natural world).

Boyden (Three Day Road) tells the story of a First Nation family in the upper reaches of Ontario, somewhere near James Bay (a tributary of the greater Hudson Bay). Will Bird is a Cree bush pilot--with his seaplane he flies people deeper into difficult-to-reach outlying and wilderness places. Living in Moose Factory, Ontario, his family includes his sister and his two twenty-something nieces, who provide the mayhem and drama that move the story forward. Bird is involved in a kind of Hatfield and McCoy blood feud with the town drug pusher, Marius, that results in Will being beaten into a coma.

This story is told in chapters—alternating between the comatose Will and his niece Ann—and wanders from Moose Factory to Toronto, Montreal, and Manhattan and back up to the backcountry around James Bay. For what it’s worth, Sherman Alexie effuses: “I don’t usually blurb friends, but Joseph’s book is so great that I have to break my rules. Buy this book; read this book. You will love it, too.”
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