Through Black Spruce

Patty Osborne

Joseph Boyden’s Giller Prize-winning book, Through Black Spruce (Penguin), shows a darker side of First Nations life—darker, but not dark enough to stop one from reading it. The story is told in two voices: an old bush pilot who is almost killed by a biker gang that traffics drugs on the reserve and his young niece, who, although steeped in the traditional ways of her family, goes to Toronto and then New York, where she dabbles in the life of a fashion model and an ecstasy-loving party girl. The strongest and most believable story is the old man’s, including his three plane crashes, the death of his family in a house fire and his attempt to survive a winter in the bush without running out of rye whisky. The young woman’s reserve life is equally rich, but once she leaves the reserve her story becomes weaker and less probable. Nevertheless, this is an engrossing book, and it has a nice tie-in with Boyden’s previous novel, Three-Day Road.

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