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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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
An Eye-Opening Read that's Hard to Put DownAug. 30 2006
- 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
4½-BOOKS for WUAT; 5-STARS for Amazon
Dream WheelsMarch 1 2012
- Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition
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.