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Through Black Spruce Hardcover – Sep 9 2008


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Canada; 1st Edition edition (Sept. 9 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670063630
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670063635
  • Product Dimensions: 15 x 22.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 499 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (43 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #25,652 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)


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85 of 86 people found the following review helpful By John E. Knight on 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 By Ian Gordon Malcomson HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Dec 2 2008
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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37 of 42 people found the following review helpful By Alexandra on Sept. 29 2008
Format: Hardcover
I read Three Day Road a couple of years ago and it immediately became one of my favorite books. Since then, I have regularly checked for updates as to when another Boyden novel would be released...
Once again, I've been blown away. A beautiful and haunting book that will stay with you long after the last page. Believable details and the tragic, yet lovable characters made for an intense story. I, honestly, could not put this one down.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Lorina Stephens TOP 500 REVIEWER on Jan. 16 2011
Format: Hardcover
To read Joseph Boyden's Through Black Spruce is to peer through a window into a quintessentially Canadian, and poignantly Northern Ontarian world. The novel, which explores human descent into revenge, violence and brutality, illuminates the rich and often desperate lives of the Cree and Ojibwa nations who, against all predations, still pursue traditions and lifestyles that in the end are their salvation and legacy.

The voice Boyden's uses is stark, simple, elegantly First Nations, and because of that acts as a sharp foil to the darker, convoluted story that is told through the dual voices of Annie and Will Bird. Each of them attempt to rescue the other through their stories and through the raw honesty of their experiences. In some ways, the dual-narrative acts as confessional, so that the reader understands that beyond the sharp edges of their actions, and the crimes committed by and upon them, there is in fact the mitigating grey of justice no court of law can assess.

Through all of this is a high-strung, fever pitch tension that nearly screams at you to flick to the next page and the next, so that you find yourself breathless and anxious, dare I say it, even obsessed by the haunting quality of this story.

More than deserving of the Giller Prize, Through Black Spruce is an excellent read, and worthy of the investment of time and emotion.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Andrea on Oct. 21 2009
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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