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Dream Wheels [Paperback]

Richard Wagamese
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Aug. 28 2007
From the acclaimed author of Keeper’n Me and For Joshua, Dream Wheels is a vital and unsparing novel from one of the most fascinating voices in Canadian writing.

Joe Willie Wolfchild is on the verge of becoming a World Champion rodeo cowboy when a legendary bull cripples him. At the same time, in the same city, Claire Hartley is brutally assaulted and her 14-year-old son, Aiden, is critically injured during a burglary. The young Ojibway-Sioux man, the black single mother and her mulatto son find their lives irrevocably changed.

Joe Willie, a rodeo cowboy since he was a child, smolders in angry silence over a deformed left arm and a limp that make it impossible for him to compete. Claire, a victim of numerous bad relationships, withdraws from men and swears a bitter celibacy. Aiden gains notoriety among his criminal peers and slips into a self-destructive spiral of drugs and violence.

Eager to find a place for her son to channel his explosive energies, Claire brings Aiden to a rodeo camp run by the Wolfchild family, where he is drawn to bull riding and proves to be a stunning natural. But Joe Willie refuses to have anything to do with the camp, remaining an aloof, mysterious presence to Claire and the boy.

Birch Wolfchild, Joe Willie’s father, sees the potential for Aiden to become a champion and for his son to heal himself, if they can move beyond anger to forge a partnership. Claire’s and Joe Willie’s wounds bring them together in a surprising romance, and beneath it all is Birch Wolfchild’s tale of the changing of the life of the Indian cowboy.

Dream Wheels is a story about change. Moving from the Wild West Shows of the late 1880s to the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas to a lush valley in the mountains, it tells the story of a people’s journey, a family’s vision,
a man’s reawakening, a woman’s recovery, and a boy’s emergence to manhood.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Wagamese (Keeper N' Me) threads Native Canadian lore and spirituality into his generous and sentimental Western. Rodeo bull rider Joe Willie Wolfchild, eight seconds away from becoming the #1 ranked "All-Round Cowboy," suffers a career-ending accident that leads him to retreat to the family ranch, where his parents, grandparents and physiotherapist try to coax him back onto his feet. Meanwhile, 15-year-old Aiden Hartley, a disaffected city kid jailed for his role in a botched armed robbery, and his abused mother, Claire, are shepherded by a sympathetic cop (who happens to be a friend of the Wolfchilds) to the Wolfchild ranch, where they can mend their fractured relationship and get Aiden on a better track. Claire takes to the country life and to the Wolfchilds, who represent the stability she's always wanted. Aiden, not one for the "yippee cay-yay" stuff, locks horns with Joe Willie until the similarities in their warrior spirits bring them together. Aiden helps Joe Willie restore a '34 Ford pickup, and Joe Willie teaches Aiden to ride bulls. From there, the narrative grows predictably uplifting, and Wagamese's tendency to carry on (and on) about the romance of cowboy life wears thin. But the novel remains a worthy testament to the healing power of family and tradition. (Sept.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Booklist

Ojibwa author Wagamese mixes cowboy lore and Native American mysticism in this affecting novel about the healing effects of family. In pursuit of a world-champion title, Joe Willie Wolfchild suffers a horrific, career-ending accident while riding a temperamental bull named C-4. His supportive family, longtime rodeo people, whisk him back to their ranch to recuperate but worry about his emotional health. Meanwhile, urban street-kid Aiden, sick and tired of his mother Claire's long string of abusive boyfriends, plans a robbery only to land in jail. Upon his release, a concerned parole officer finds a place for Aiden and his mom at the Wolfchild ranch. Claire takes to the stable family and wide-open vistas immediately, but Aiden and Joe Willie circle each other warily until they find common ground. Far from the laconic stereotype, Wagamese's chatty cowboys endlessly parse the western lifestyle and its macho code of conduct, but his soaring descriptions of the desert landscape, action-packed rodeo scenes, and reverence for hearth and home will strike a chord with readers. Joanne Wilkinson
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Traditional Thanksgiving Oct. 9 2006
By Joel Martineau TOP 1000 REVIEWER
In Dream Wheels, Ojibway writer Richard Wagamese uses First Nations lore to underscore timeless healing techniques -- especially appreciating our places within lengthy family traditions -- that transcend many cultures. The plot brings a Native, crippled bull rider who can no longer follow his dreams on the rodeo circuit and a black, urban teenager who has just spent eighteen months in jail to a ranch somewhere in the west, possibly in the Nicola Valley of British Columbia. They fight through their private hells and mend each other, with several predictable aides: the wisdom of generations, oodles of motherly nurturing, the land as salve, and just enough traditional spirituality. The rustic dialogue that connects the cast of characters could easily plunge the novel into cliches, but Wagamese creates such narrative momentum that I read the novel cover-to-cover. It addresses the importance of family, dreamtime, and general thanksgiving in ways that worked for me.
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Amazon.com: 4.5 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Eye-Opening Read that's Hard to Put Down Aug. 30 2006
By Terri Rowan - Published on Amazon.com
Joe Willie Wolfchild's life was shattered just three seconds away from becoming rodeo's World Champion. He had drawn the meanest bull on the circuit, and the bull won. With his left shoulder completely obliterated and right leg pulverized, Joe Willie has gone home a man of broken dreams.

Aiden Hartley was a troubled biracial teen sentenced to two years in juvenile detention. In danger of becoming an embittered criminal, a detective sees hidden potential and reaches out in an unexpected way. Grudgingly agreeing to the cop's offer, Aiden is thrown into a world he hardly understands after two years in prison.

Claire Hartley was heartbroken when her son was sent away. Convinced that she should have done better for him, she set out to make a new, safer life. After Aiden's release, Claire meets him on the Wolfchild ranch for three life-changing weeks.

The Wolfchild family embraces Claire and Aiden as two of their own. It doesn't take them long to see a great deal of similarity between Joe Willie and Aiden, though the two young men don't see it. Especially unique is the Wolfchilds' blending of cowboy and Native American ways, which will have profound meaning for Aiden.

Wagamese delivers a beautifully written tale about family, grief, anger, and hope. Blending gorgeous setting descriptions with gritty dialogue and action, he introduces readers to a little-understood way of life; one that is often romanticized beyond belief. Wagamese honors the cowboy way with heartfelt prose that will grab readers from the beginning.

Some readers may be annoyed with the numerous references to smoking or to un-PC terms, but these things are as true to the culture as seeing wide vistas from horseback. Life in cattle and prairie lands is vastly different from the frenzied pace of the urban experience.

While some aspects of the story are predictable-- Joe Willie and Aiden's developing partnership being the foremost--this journey is very much worth the ride.

Reviewed by Christina Wantz Fixemer


4-BOOKS for WUAT; 5-STARS for Amazon
4.0 out of 5 stars Dream Wheels March 1 2012
By wessong - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I read Ragged Company, by Richard Wagamese, and loved it, and wanted to continue with him. I found Dream Wheels a little "hokey"--some of the traditions seemed overdone, somehow. Still, an excellent read by a very good author.
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