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Through Black Spruce [Hardcover]

Joseph Boyden
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (45 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 34.00
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Book Description

Sept. 9 2008 0670063630 978-0670063635 1st Edition

From internationally acclaimed author Joseph Boyden comes an astonishingly powerful novel of contemporary aboriginal life, full of the dangers and harsh beauty of both forest and city. When beautiful Suzanne Bird disappears, her sister Annie, a loner and hunter, is compelled to search for her, leaving behind their uncle Will, a man haunted by loss.While Annie travels from Toronto to New York, from modelling studios to A-list parties,Will encounters dire troubles at home. Both eventually come to painful discoveries about the inescapable ties of family. Through Black Spruce is an utterly unforgettable consideration of how we discover who we really are.


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Through Black Spruce + Three Day Road
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Review

"Through Black Spruce is an arresting novel with unexpected twists and turns. It's also an important contribution to the Native literary voice in this country." -- Tomson Highway, author of Kiss of the Fur Queen

"Joseph Boyden achieves a beautiful balance between his characters and nature, between the hardships of contemporary life and their strong connection to the past." -- Nino Ricci, Author of The Origin of Species and Testament

Review

"Joseph Boyden achieves a beautiful balance between his characters and nature, between the hardships of contemporary life and their strong connection to the past."

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
86 of 87 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating - master storytelling Oct. 19 2008
Format:Hardcover
In reading "Through Black Spruce", I found myself intrigued as much with author Joseph Boyden's writing style as with the story itself. The book slapped me with some confusion in the first three chapters, as I realized that Boyden was using a double narrative style, and the majority of the book alternated between the primary narrator - bush pilot and Cree native, Will Bird and then the other narrator his niece, Annie Bird. The style is an effective method of telling two separate stories of individuals struggling to find their identities - Will the Uncle straddling his life between the traditional ways of the Cree - living off the land and a today's world which seems to be full of personal problems.I am struck by Will the hard-drinker and endless smoker who also is a jogger, and the hunter who also becomes friends with an old black bear. Annie becomes engaged in two extreme living worlds - one the one hand a tomboy who is a skilled trapper, and on the other hand a short stint in the life of being a supermodel. The two narratives have common touch points, and the reader begins to sense the final convergence early, which unfortunately becomes predictable before the end of the story.

Nevertheless, an excellent book, a learning experience about the Canadian northern region around James Bay and the people who live there.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Life in Two Very Different Worlds Dec 2 2008
By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
This is a complex and colorful tale that deals with the incredible struggles of a First Nations family's attempts to become reconciled after years of living apart and suffering alone. The novel's main setting encompasses the wilds of northern Ontario where a family has grown up learning to survive by living off the land. As they reach adulthood, the pull of the urban south enters their lives and the family draws apart.The story picks up when an uncle and niece eventually reconnect under very strange and tragic circumstances. The uncle, Willie Bird, is in a deep coma and at possibly at death's door because of a serious plane crash while the niece, Annie Bird, has come home from her desperate search for a future in her missing sister in the jungles of the big bad city. The only tangible connection between the two is through a poignantly silent drawing together of their individual stories as inner emotions and hurts pass through their clutching hands at they come together at the uncle's bedside. Guilt is cleansed and the true spiritual essence of who they are as kith and kin emerges. Everything in this novel is a revisiting of the formative events of their respective pasts as the Willie and Annie draw close to each other in a transcending spiritual bond. Boyden is especially effective in mapping out the journey that native people take from their roots in the wilderness to the fleshpots of the big city in search of an ever-elusive identity. As they talk within themselves, the images of a sordid and unhappy past flash up on the big screen of life and disappear. The reader gets to see what really causes extended families like the Birds to be uprooted and then to come together later in life as only a shadow of their former self. Read more ›
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Carrying on the story March 14 2009
Format:Hardcover
Beginning with Three Day Road set during the era of WWI, the story of the Bird family continues in the modern day. It is remarkable how the author, Joseph Boyden, managed to weave the old with the new, taking the descendants of Xavier and his auntie, Niska into the reality of modern Cree, and human, life. Through the author's choice of language and circumstance we are immediately transformed from the past to the present, a jump not easily taken at first, but growing on you as you read. I don't know how this story plays out for the average reader, but for those of us familiar with the Cree: Elders and culture, drugs and hopelessness, dreams and reality: this story, coming from a Metis, is touched with genius and artistry. I don't know what he will do for the third story of the trilogy and it will be difficult to wait! For now, enjoy the travel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous storytelling Oct. 21 2009
By Andrea
Format:Hardcover
[Cross-posted to LibraryThing and LivingSocial]

Being a visual person, I'm not normally a fan of audio books. I like to see the words on the page. But as I was reading Through Black Spruce, I really wished that I could listen to it instead. Boyden's writing flows so beautifully it's almost like poetry. He writes as if he means for it to be read aloud. It's just simple, gorgeous prose that makes you slow down and think about the words and images being created.

Through Black Spruce is the second book, following Three Day Road (while not necessary to have read it first, I'd highly recommend it), in what will be a trilogy. While Three Day Road took place during WWI, this novel is set mostly in the present day. As with Three Day Road, I think Through Black Spruce does a good job of emphasizing the interconnectedness of all things: our human relationship with nature, our relationships with each other, how our actions can have consequences far beyond anything that we might foresee.

The story is told using alternating narrators: Will Bird (Xavier's son from Three Day Road) and his niece, Annie. I felt for all of the characters and was drawn into their stories, but it didn't keep me up at night and it often felt like something was missing. I think this was because I was expecting something as intense as Three Day Road was, but much of the suspense and tension there came from the fact that there was a war going on so it was probably not realistic to expect the same here.

In any case, Boyden is an incredible story teller and I'm really looking forward to finding out where Boyden takes us next with this series.
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Most recent customer reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Three Stars
Gave me a greater insight into aboriginal culture and thinking.
Published 1 month ago by Peter Siemens
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
Essential second book in the Boyden's trilogy. I adored it.
Published 2 months ago by Northern Exposure
1.0 out of 5 stars I'd like to read the book but can't
Can't read it print too small!
Published 3 months ago by patricia sheffield
5.0 out of 5 stars Through Black Spruce
We have bought this book multiple times, lent it out and then no-one wants to return it because it is so good. Waiting, not so patiently, for the third book in the series. Read more
Published 3 months ago by grandma
5.0 out of 5 stars Through the Black Spruce
I loved this book. Joseph Boyden keeps you hooked by taking you to the "edge of a Cliff" when violent situations arise, then spares you the gory details. Read more
Published 4 months ago by Colette
4.0 out of 5 stars Realistic insight into the North through First Nations eyes
Everything Boyden gives voice to resonates with what a semi-northern white academic knows about life there. Read more
Published 6 months ago by A. L. Foote
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliantly woven
I was given The Orenda as a gift but wouldn't read it until I had purchased and read Through Black Spruce. Boyden's craftsmanship grows exponentially with each offering. Read more
Published 7 months ago by Iean Dobson
5.0 out of 5 stars A great winter read
I enjoyed Three Day Road and so decided to read this by the same author. Loved the descriptions of Moose Factory and northern Ontario - having visited there both in winter and... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Dr. Sandra Reid
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read Joseph Boyden.
These books by Joseph Boyden should be "must-reads" in every Canadian high school. The information and the depth of understanding of the First Nations people is... Read more
Published 7 months ago by RammyD
5.0 out of 5 stars Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden
I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and my book club is going to read it in January. I chose it because I loved his book Three Day Road and was not disappointed. Read more
Published 10 months ago by mamap@shaw.ca
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