Sunday, February 7, 2010

A Postponement, An Apology and A Hearty Recommended Read

Due to foreseen illness I have delayed the first book of 52 for the year. I assure you it was worth the wait. So much so that - and this is highly unusual - I refuse to finish the book. It's that good. I've put off the last 50 or so pages because when it is done it will no longer be a parallel world, it will simply be a story in the past. I've come to terms with that and have set a side 3 pages a night, like dessert. My only solace lies in the fact Joseph Boyden has two previous novels awaiting my attention.

The book in question is Canadian writer Joseph Boyden's Through Black Spruce. The story unravels by alternating between two narrators. The first is Will, an aboriginal bush pilot with a penchant for alcohol. He is in a coma and begins to wander through his life, telling his story to his two nieces Annie and Suzanne.

Suzanne, a successful model disappeared with her boyfriend Gus Netmaker, the youngest in the Netmaker clan. A clan well known to import cocaine and crystal meth into the community of Moosonee with help from their underworld connections. While her family holds out little hope that she's alive, her sister Annie continues to hope. Annie follows her sister's life through the modeling world in Toronto then New York, wearing her clothes, meeting her friends, staying at the same places and even sharing the same modeling agent.

Annie comes home to Moosonee and talks to her uncle in a coma, telling him everything of her life for the past few months. Her only solace lies in the mute aboriginal man she found in Toronto who knew something of her sister. Together they live in a small cabin, writing notes, trapping marten and commuting to town by snowmobile.

The danger of two first-person narratives situated in the past is that there is no present story arc and little suspense. However, Boyden manages this extremely well, making sure there is a present story and the reader is compelled to read on to find out how this all unfolds.

Boyden depicts the harsh Canadian landscape with love. With each character and event the small town gains weight, fleshing out the story so it seems real, that these are real people and this story is the only one they belong to. Overall a ten!

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