Thursday, January 8, 2009

Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden


Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden

Giller Prize Winner 2008

Fiction, Hardcover, pgs.

Penguin Group Canada, September 2008

This is a guest review, written by Tamara of Books by TJ Baff.

From the Publisher

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. About the Author Joseph Boyden is a Canadian with Irish, Scottish, and M├ętis roots. Three Day Road has received the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award and has also been shortlisted for the Governor General Award for Fiction and published in 10 languages. He divides his time between Northern Ontario and Louisiana, where he teaches writing at the University of New Orleans.

The novel Through Black Spruce is written by alternating chapters between Annie Bird's story, a somewhat confused loner and niece to, Will Bird, bush pilot, who lies in a coma in a hospital bed. Annie shares her story, while seated at her uncle's bedside, about the search for her sister in the international modelling world, in an effort to interest her uncle enough in the day to day troubles that he will awaken from his coma.

Will's voice comprises the alternate chapters about his recollections of events leading up to the beating that leads him to the coma. Both stories culminate in a shared climax that has it's roots in the same sequence of events.

I loved this book. I found the style of writing easy to read and it flowed. The characters were well developed and through the tale there was shown to be a growth period for both of the main protagonists. The sequence of events leading to the climax made sense and was well planned and executed and the overwhelming theme of family was well described.

I left this book after the closing of the last page feeling as if I had read an authentic tale relating problems experienced by a few aboriginals in their native northlands and how they are fighting the the same fight of drug related gangs and violence that we are further south. Their success in this fight also depends on the few who stand up against this oppression and fight back. A timely tale.

5 out of 5 stars.


Thank you Tamara. You can see more of Tamara's work at Books by TJ Baff.

This was Joseph Boyden's second novel. Though the story stands alone it does follow the same family as his first, Three Day Road, which I will be reading as part of the Diversity challenge (button in sidebar). Through Black Spruce was a five star read for me too and the Giller Prize for literature was well deserved.

Have you read it, or any other Giller Prize nominees? What other Native North American literature can you recommend?


  1. wow, this sounds like a read that would affect you long after its been read.

  2. I thought that book looked good - glad to see it is. This is the first review I've seen of it.

  3. I enjoyed reading your review of this book. I've added it to my TBR list, and may move it up the list a little since it would fit the Book Awards Challenge.

  4. Sandra, Thanks for leaving me the link to this review. The story sounds phenomenal, and I'm even more anxious to read it as I've actually been to Moose Factory.

  5. *Debi, that's so cool, I've been to Moosenee and Moose Factory too!
    I'm so glad I gave you that recommendation. Come back and let us know what you think after you've read it.

  6. I need a 5 star read... and have never heard of this book. Thanks!

  7. This book and Boyden's earlier work sound like books I would enjoy. Thanks for the review.

  8. I am really looking forwad to reading this one. I loved Three Day Road. Boyden is so talented!

  9. Two I've liked are The True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie and Diamond Willow by Helen Frost. Both are young adult/children's books. Just so you know.

  10. Have to laugh when I read your question. My mind went totally blank.



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