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Three Day Road [Paperback]

Joseph Boyden
4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (74 customer reviews)
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Product Description

From Amazon

Joseph Boyden's first novel is the story of two Cree friends, Xavier and Elijah, who leave their pristine northern country to end up in the horrific trenches of World War I. Loosely based on the real life of a famous Canadian sniper, the story is told from two first-person views: those of Xavier and his old aunt and only living relative, Niska. After the war, Niska is taking her wounded nephew back home north to the bush in a canoe. Their trip is the three-day road of the title, which also refers to the journey taken after death. The story of the war is told in flashbacks on this journey as Xavier recovers from morphine addiction. Niska also relates various stories to Xavier, believing there is "medicine in the tale."

Boyden is a natural storyteller. Both the Native tales of the north and the grim accounts of the war in France and Belgium have the ring of truth. His images can be subtly appropriate--raiders who go over the top are "eaten by the night"--and his characterizations are excellent, especially the three main players and Xavier's Canadian trenchmates. Eventually, Elijah seems to feed on the death all around him, becoming a "windigo," while Xavier begins to question the sanity of the war and his friend's growing madness, realizing "we all fight on two fronts, the one facing the enemy, the one facing what we do to the enemy." Not for the squeamish reader, this is a powerful novel that takes a new angle on a popular subject, "the war to end all wars." --Mark Frutkin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. When Cree Indians Xavier Bird and Elijah Whiskeyjack join the Canadian Army in 1915, they expect to go to France, become warriors and kill Germans. What they don't expect is that the war will drive one of them mad and make the other a morphine-addicted cripple. This is Boyden's first novel (after the story collection Born with a Tooth), a powerful tale of two young men numbed by the horrors and brutality of trench warfare. Boyden vividly portrays the chaos, fear, cowardice and courage of infantrymen condemned to wallow in the mud and blood of the Western Front. Best friends Xavier and Elijah are both expert sharpshooters and, using the field craft they learned hunting in the forests of Hudson Bay, quickly become accomplished snipers. Elijah is outgoing and boastful, while Xavier is quiet and reserved, but both are deadly efficient soldiers. A parallel story line tells of Niska, Xavier's aunt, a Cree Indian prophet and healer, as she tells of the sad decline of Cree culture and waits for her nephew to come home. As the war drags on, one of the men's addiction to drugs and killing causes him to take extreme risks; when he finally commits murder to hide the ugly truth, his friend sees only one solution to save his own soul. Friendship is riven with resentment and war is stripped of glory in this remarkable, wrenching novel, the work of a gifted storyteller. Agent, Nicole Winstanley at Westwood Creative Artists (Toronto). 6-city author tour. (May 9)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

This first novel is set in Canada and Europe during the First World War. When Xavier, a Cree boy raised on a reserve, enlists in the army with his friend Elijah, the boys abruptly enter a modern world in which their ethnic appearance is a signal to others that they are to be treated differently. Even as the boys become expert marksmen, they are ostracized by their comrades. Xavier reacts by turning inward, grappling with the meaning of the war and with guilt over the killing he has done; Elijah, meanwhile, turns outward, becomes consumed with killing, and dedicates himself to being the world's best sniper. Loosely based on the life of Francis Pegamahgabow, a real-life World War I sniper, this is a delicately written, almost poetic novel. Neither pro- nor antiwar, it posits that war is something that will always exist, and all we can control is our own place in it. Ultimately, Boyden writes about life, not war. The novel can be very slow moving, but it will prove rewarding for patient readers. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

“It’s gripping, wrenching, eye-opening, illuminating, stirring, moral (not moralistic) fiction, rooted in closely observed fact…Boyden, like Homer in The Iliad, is precise and unflinching in his descriptions of the ways in which soldiers fall in battle…This novel is a remarkable achievement, and a breathtaking debut.” - The Globe and Mail

“The writing is minimalist, the characters vivid, the pace measured, the hold on the reader firm…This book will stir up controversy, win awards, hit bestseller lists, and spawn a feature film. Count on it.” - The Montreal Gazette

“Three Day Road, his first novel, will stand beside Timothy Findley’s classic The Wars as a moving account of the Great War from a Canadian perspective, but Boyden has delivered something new…The cinematic battle scenes blaze with intensity and the riveting climax of the boys’ friendship feels brutal and inevitable. It satisfies even as it shocks…the writing is glorious and shines with real immediacy…Boyden is a remarkable storyteller. Three Day Road is an unforgettable and valuable depiction of the aboriginal Canadian experience in the First World War and at home.” - The National Post

"You will never forget these two young Cree snipers plunged in the horror of the First World War, where the enemy was so close that one could smell him. A beautifully written and haunting story of survival and innocence shattered, of friendship, death, redemption and love of the land. The three protagonists, Xavier, Elijah and Niska will be in my heart forever. Please, please don't miss it!" - Isabel Allende

“Three Day Road is as fine a novel as I have seen during the five years I have been reading first novels. My prediction is that it will win every award for which it is nominated, and that it will become a Canadian and international classic.” - W.P. Kinsella, Books in Canada

“The extraordinary richness of Boyden’s prose and his material, both in the forgotten history he’s recovered and his electric metaphors, make Three Day Road one of the finest novels in an already rich national tradition.” - Maclean’s

“Three Day Road is a devastatingly truthful work of fiction, and a masterful account of hell and healing. This is a grave, grand and passionate book.” - Louise Erdrich

“Three Day Road is that rarest of books: It works on different levels for different readers. It can be enjoyed as a military history, a study of the tragedy of First Nations people in Canada or simply as a strong literary novel set again a First World War backdrop. Read it and see for yourself.” - The Vancouver Sun

“a tale that’s pure magic…Boyden’s braided stories twine together to a surprisingly gentle ending. There is death –many deaths –but there is also rebirth and beauty in this author’s passionate storytelling as in the world he describes.” - Straight.com

“Three Day Road [is] a stunning, epic story…has a greatness about it…” - Winnipeg Free Press

“This poignant tale weaves together magic, hubris and plain good storytelling, making it one of the best Canadian literature offerings of the season.” - The Calgary Herald

“Perhaps the most startling success of this book is the way it combines a tale of racial and cultural displacement with a mystic saga…. He guides us through immensely complex stories with subtlety and grace.” - Independent on Sunday

“There have been so many fine novels inspired by the First World War that to read one that is not just harrowing, but fresh, comes as a pleasant surprise…. (it’s) a fully rounded work of fiction which, after a quiet opening, develops into a real page-turner……. His portrait of an indigenous people who are, in their way, hunted to near-extinction is poignant and convincing.” - Sunday Telegraph

“Boyden strips away unnecessary embellishments and tells his story with the starkness and simplicity that does justice to the raw worlds of bush and trench. It is an absorbing read, with chilling, exhaustive detail about the butchery of animals and soldiers. But the net effect is rewarding – hallucinatory, even – as the reader is drawn into the Cree network of spirits, voices and stories.” - Scotland on Sunday

“It takes an exceptionally intense and clear vision for a writer to persuade us that there is anything new to be said about the Great War, now creeping steadily towards its centenary anniversary. Yet every now and then a book comes along (or, in the case of Pat Barker, a trilogy) that rescues from the mire and carnage a genuinely new perspective on the awful events of 1914-1918. Focusing on the rarely-told stories of indigenous people enlisted into the Canadian army, Joseph Boyden’s first novel, Three Day Road, is one such book……. What sets Boyden’s writing alongside other notable war novels is the way in which the fighting, for all the grim detail, does not dominate his other, broader themes. He succeeds in driving the narrative along with sufficient dramatic incident to satisfy his brothers, but what haunts the book are the more insidious developments offsetting the conflict in Europe.” - The Glasgow Herald

“Simply, beautifully, Boyden takes us into the minds and hearts of his characters. The result is an otherworldly reading experience…this is that rare novel that illuminates the past for the present – for all time, in fact.” - New Orleans Times Picayune

“Three Day Road is a compelling read, beautifully told, and timeless in its lessons.” - Rick Bass

“There are also lyrical moments which posses an eerie power - especially where Boyden writes about the northern landscape and the human relationship to it. He has illuminated a forgotten corner of the Great War and that, in itself is a prodigious achievement.” - The Independent

About the Author

Joseph Boyden's first novel, Three Day Road, was selected for the Today Show Book Club, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year Award, the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His second novel, Through Black Spruce, was awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize and named the Canadian Booksellers Association Fiction Book of the Year; it also earned him the CBA’s Author of the Year Award. His most recent novel, The Orenda, won Canada Reads and was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Boyden divides his time between Northern Ontario and Louisiana.

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