Three Day Road

Patty Osborne

Just before the fiftieth anniversary of VE Day, I read Three Day Road (which takes place during World War I) by Joseph Boyden (Viking Canada), so for once I was not put off by the CBC’s obsessive coverage of the occasion. Three Day Road is about snipers—those guys who sneaked around at night to pick off enemy soldiers careless enough to poke their heads out of the trenches—and their fascinating plans and tactics. A team of two snipers build a “nest” from mounds of dirt and debris in no man’s land (or somewhere equally unsafe) and hide there until they see movement on the enemy line. One sniper takes a shot with a high-powered rifle and scope while the other looks through a hand-held scope to see the results. After one shot the two move out because the smoke from their rifle has given away their location. The two snipers in Three Day Road are Oji-Cree men who grew up in the bush of northern Ontario, where they learned the hunting and tracking skills that serve them so well in France. The story is told in flashbacks between life in the trenches and life on the land: in both places the legend of the Windigo (a person who goes mad and becomes a threat to the community) plays a big part in the snipers’ lives. This suspense-filled tale brings a little-known aspect of World War I vividly to life.

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