Three Day Road Hardcover – Apr 19 2005
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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
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)
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Top Customer Reviews
I have read numerous books depicting WWI, and while all describe its brutality and horror, few have done so to the extent that this book does. Further, WWI depictions have rarely been written from the viewpoint of the snipers, which is a very unique and interesting angle. Also, being a story told from the viewpoint of Native Canadians means that there are many mystical and surreal depictions, using smooth and sensual language.
Astoundingly well written.
"Taking the Three Day Road", the traditional Cree reference to dying, takes on new meaning here, both literally and spiritually. The journey home in Niska's canoe through the lush forests and on the winding river provides the backdrop to her efforts to bring one of the friends home, physically and mentally deeply wounded. Her personal recollections and stories of their past lives are set against the nightmarish dreaming of the returning soldier. Will Niska be able to soothe the mind, will the medicine be strong enough to heal him from the agony of war?
The two young Cree started out with eagerness to fight in the war, having honed their tracking and shooting skills in the bush killing animals for food and ceremony. Their very different characters emerge clearly as they leave the familiar territory.Read more ›
Most recent customer reviews
Niska is a traditional medicine woman, a mix of Cree and Ojibway. She's been taught divining and traditional medicine by her mother and father, has seizures and sees visions. Read morePublished 1 month ago by Rod Raglin
A gritty, haunting tale of two First Nations young men who go to the battlefields of WWI. Aside from the pretty needless sex scenes in the book that seem either forced or... Read morePublished 4 months ago by The Idler
Xavier Bird, and his friend Elijah Whiskeyjack, from the James Bay area of northern Ontario, are soldiers and snipers fighting in the trenches of WWI. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Lisa Adams
Great story. I've passed the book around to other readers. Everyone really loved the story.Published 4 months ago by Tammy McLeod
I enjoyed the pacing and storytelling aspects of this book. The horrors of war were blended with a perspective on the natural and spiritual realms.Published 4 months ago by jojo