The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

My first of five books from the Canada Reads 2018.

3/5 stars.
ebook,  184 pages.
Read from February 5, 2018 to February 11, 2018.

I’ll admit, I picked this book to read first because it was the shortest and it is the one I was the least excited about reading. YA books, while they can be enjoyable, often don’t satisfy any sort of intellectual need that I expect out books sometimes, especially ones that are in competition.

It is the future and we have out-worked ourselves and over-stretched our planet to the point of desolation. Instead of coming up with real solutions to combat the problem we have ended up working harder with the same old resources. We have worked so hard that we no longer dream. Like a plague, dreamlessness spreads itself across the globe and like having lost part of their soul, people are starting to go mad and are willing to do anything to regain back the ability to escape and to dream. There is one group of people who have somehow managed to not lose their ability to dream, the Native Americans, and with the spread of the epidemic, they are now being hunted for the dreams that live within the marrow of their bones.

“From where we were now, running, looking at reality from this one point in time, it seemed as though the world had suddenly gone mad. Poisoning your own drinking water, changing the air so much the earth shook and melted and crumbled, harvesting a race for medicine. How? How could this happen? Were they that much different from us? Would we be like them if we’d had a choice? Were they like us enough to let us live?”

Struggling to keep their culture and language alive while they are slowing be picked off by Recruiters for their marrow, small groups of natives are living out in the bush and having to move as much as possible to stay alive. You follow the story of fifteen-year-old Frenchie who has been separated from his family and has since joined up with another smaller group of Natives just trying to stay alive.

If the premise sounds a bit far off, like dreams in bone marrow, it is because it is and it was my major fault with this book. Sometimes dystopian premises can go a bit too far. However, this novel pays so much tribute to the Native American tradition of oral story-telling creating some amazing chapters and sequences in the writing style. The story is also a set reminder and reflection of what we have done to the Native Americans in our past and current history. There are many natives alive today that know all too well the horrors of the residential school systems in which they were forced into, robbing them of their culture and sometimes of their dignity which is exactly what is occurring this book.

The characters are easily relatable and you’re quick to like them, especially after hearing them recount their own stories. The author also does a good job in creating some very effective emotional and tragic scenes. It also wouldn’t be a YA novel without some romance which, wasn’t as bad as I was expecting. There were a few angsty-awkward romance moments but overall fairly believable, especially for teens.

The story ends with a satisfying but partial resolution making it look like this book is going to be the first in a series, another thing I hate about YA novels, but at least it wasn’t a cliffhanger ending.

So does this book meet the Canada Reads 2018 criteria? Does it open your eyes? Yes, in a metaphorical sense. It takes the issues facing Native Americans today in Canada and puts it a more somewhat palatable form. The connections that the author draws between the fictional world that Frenchie lives in and the world that real Natives live in are comparable and important, as are the environmental reflections, but will this book stand up to another with a more poignant story that is not dystopian? Personally, I can’t see it happening but I guess we will see what the other books bring to the table and how the debates are presented.

 

Just Announced! Canada Reads 2018 Shortlist

One book to open your eyes…

Huzzuh it’s time for Canada Reads 2018!

With Ali Hassan as the host and overseer, the five defenders will debate this year’s theme: One Book to Open Your Eyes.

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Excited cat is excited. 

The contenders and their chosen books are:

I am personally looking forward to reading Mark Sakamoto’s novel! As always, I will read all five books and have my reviews and thoughts posted for your peep holes before the debates take place.

The debate takes place from March 26-29, 2018. The debates will air on CBC Radio One at 11 a.m., will be live-streamed on CBC Books at 11 a.m. ET and can be seen on CBC Television at 4 p.m.

The Break by Katherena Vermette

A story of strong women on the path from trauma to recovery.

But even in sleep, her ghosts all hunt her down, wanting her to look at them, remember them.”

4/5 stars.
ebook, 269 pages.
Read from March 8, 2017 to March 14, 2017.

Huzzuh! I am nearly done all the shortlisted Canada Reads 2017 books. I think is one of the best selections of books in the last few year (I have been following since 2014) and I know that it is going to be hard for me to select my favourites for the winner. At the rate I am reading I will have all the books read and reviewed before the debates kick off so I will post my thoughts on what I think the top five should be.

It’s winter in Winnipeg and during one cold night a Métis mother named Stella looks out her window to witness a violent assault taking place. Afraid for herself and her children the only thing she can do is call the police. From here the story shifts between narrators, all of whom are connected somehow to the victim of the assault. From the Métis police officer who is not sure how to cope with his Métis identity,  to members of Stella’s extensive families, along with their personal histories and individual traumas and pain that they have all had to deal with that are unique to their heritage and upbringing. The narratives string together the real story of the assault that Stella witnessed outside her window and how traumas can change and affect a whole family or community of people overnight.

This book deals with so many tough issues. It discusses with rape culture, Native American and Métis specific cultural issues, as well as topics of identity, family and community. The Native American and Métis characters all struggle with perceptions from the outside world about their race and identity and they come from varying degrees of dysfunctional families. The dysfunction details the realities of growing up poor and different and the tragedies of those that are stuck within a rigid system of expectations.

The women in the book have all dealt with one trauma or another and are intensely strong and resilient, making the book ending overwhelmingly positive and hopeful. While there is no assurance that everything will end up being okay, it emphasises the support of family, community and specifically on other women and how essential that is to heal from the trauma the each individual has faced in the novel.

This book is a phenomenal contender for the winner of Canada Reads 2017. With the question: What is the one book Canadians need now? This book fulfills in answering this question many times over with the multiple topics it breaches. This book outlines rape culture, which is massively important with our neighbours below us stirring the pot politically on feminist topics, as well as discussing and bringing light to the importance of how missing and murdered Native American women are being viewed and treated negatively and are not given the the serious attention that their cause deserves. Additionally, the books ends with hope. That through supporting each other, our backgrounds, identities and communities that a better tomorrow can be attained.

The quality of the writing and character development is superb as the author depicts the realities of living with trauma. I would not recommend this book to people who are sensitive to trauma, especially sexual related traumas, as it does not spare details. It could however prove to be a healing tool for those that are ready to approach it. For everyone else, this is a phenomenal book of trauma and recovery.