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The Lesser Blessed [Paperback]

Richard Van Camp
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Sept. 1 1996

A powerful coming-of-age story -- edgy, stark, and at times, darkly funny that centers around Larry, a Native teenager trying to cope with a painful past and find his place in a confusing and stressful modern world.

Larry is a Dogrib Indian growing up in the small northern town of Fort Simmer. His tongue, his hallucinations and his fantasies are hotter than the centre of the sun. At sixteen, he loves Iron Maiden, the North and Juliet Hope, the high school ìtramp.î

In this powerful and very funny first novel, Richard Van Camp gives us one of the most original teenage characters in Canadian fiction. Skinny as spaghetti, nervy and self-deprecating, Larry is an appealing mixture of bravado and vulnerability. His past holds many terrors: an abusive father, blackouts from sniffing gasoline, an accident that killed several of his cousins, and he's now being hunted and haunted by a pack of blue monkeys. But through his new friendship with Johnny, a Metis who just moved to town, he's now ready to face his memoriesóand his future.

The Lesser Blessed is an eye-opening depiction of what it is to be a young Dogrib man in the age of AIDS, disillusionment with Catholicism and a growing world consciousness.


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Review

"The Lesser Blessed is easily one of the most truthful, painful, powerful novels I've ever read." -- Joseph Bruchac

The Lesser Blessed, by Richard Van Camp, is the first-person account of Larry Sole, a member of the Dogrib Indian tribe, who, after being sexually abused by his father, kills him in his sleep with a hammer and sets the house on fire. (The account in the Yellowknife newspaper reported that the contusions on the victim's head were a result of his falling down the stairs.) Larry is in the seventh grade when all this happens; when the novel opens he is in grade eleven, living with his mother, who is working hard to improve their lot in life by studying to be a teacher.

On the first day of school he notices a newcomer, a Métis named Johnny Beck. Johnny, with his tough-guy attitude, smart-ass remarks, and surly good looks, makes an immediate impression. Larry becomes Johnny's sidekick: "He was everything I wasn't. He was bad news but still.." This partnership leads Larry to a number of new and unexpected experiences, including standing by as Johnny dates Juliet Hope-the girl Larry himself loves.

Van Camp penetrates the lives of his characters with compassion and empathy, portraying an adolescent world that-at least in the consciousness of Larry Sole-transcends the fights, drugs, music, and sex that characterize the stereotypical high school experience. Despite their swaggering and false bravado, their pretence at indifference, Larry, Johnny, and Juliet are oddly moving, especially in their relationships with one another. Eva Tihanyi(Books in Canada) -- Books in Canada

About the Author

An internationally renowned storyteller and best-selling author, Richard Van Camp was born in Fort Smith, NWT, and is a member of the Dogrib (Tlicho) Dene Nation. He acted as a cultural consultant for CBC Television’s North of 60. A graduate of the En’owkin School of Writing in Penticton, he completed his BFA in Writing at the University of Victoria and completed his MFA of Creative Writing at the University of British Columbia. Richard was awarded Storyteller of the Year for both Canada and the US by the Wordcraft Circle of Native Writers and Storytellers.

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First Sentence
I remember. It is the summer of my crucifixion. Read the first page
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Most helpful customer reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wicked! Nov. 28 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
"[Van Camp] does not stumble over nostalgia or romanticism or careless diction. He loves words-his own, his Nation's, rock and roll's-and slips perfect ones into atrociously profane and perfect sentences..."
--Lorna Jackson for The Malahat Review (Summer, 1997)
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars a masterful achievement Nov. 27 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The Lesser Blessed. Richard Van Camp. Douglas & McIntyre, 1996. Reviewed by Dr. Geary Hobson.
In virtually every generation, in the realm of literary activity, there comes along a
book that, by the very nature of its subject matter and place and the sheer exuberance
of its utterances reverberant of the place and people depicted, introduces not only a
little-known terra firma and people, but sometimes becomes the definer of that era in
which it is produced. Not surprisingly, these books are usually the products of younger
writers. Wordsworth's and Coleridge's Lyrical Ballads, Jane Austin's novels, the
work of the Brontes, Stephen Crane's stories, Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises
ushering in the Lost Generation, Kerouac's Beat Generation introduced in On The
Road, Salinger's Holden Caulfield wandering through Catcher in the Rye, the jaded
"me"-obsessed teens in Bret Easton Ellis's Less Than Zero, Native American
sensibilities in Momaday's House Made of Dawn, and a generation later, Alexie's The
Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven-all these books and writers burst forth
in such dynamic ways that not only defined their respective eras, shook the accepted
literary standards of their day, but expanded and extended the English lan-{78}guage,
while at the same time occasioning the debut of sometimes extraordinary new literary
talents.
In my view, Richard Van Camp, a Dogrib Nation writer born in Fort Smith,
Northwest Territories, Canada, in 1971, is accomplishing virtually the same thing in his
first novel, The Lesser Blessed, as Hemingway, Kerouac, et al. did in their times.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Dark, compelling, great Oct. 28 2011
Format:Paperback
This book is semi-stream-of-consciousness brilliance, with an interesting character whose depths are revealed slowly and skillfully. It is dark and gets darker as the narrative unfolds. But what a read. Terrific.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A shaker! Nov. 28 2003
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
"The Lesser Blessed is a coming of age tale told in photo-booth snapshots and raunchy one-liners. It is poetry and prose and locker-room boasts and puking-your-guts-out shame. It's sex that transcends tragedy. It is loud and rude and high. It's a shaker."
--John Burns for the Georgia Straight (Nov. 28, 1996)
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