Top positive review
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Timely and purely marvelous
on January 16, 2013
As a child of northern Canada, the residential school legacy has been a constant theme in my formative and adult years. It is truly one of the blackest hours in Canadian history; one so shameful, we cannot bear to teach it in our public schools. The complete social upheaval of first nations communities has led to the destruction and near-destruction of so many lives and homes in the north, we despair of it ever being healed.
But healing is coming; in the telling of the stories, in the solidarity of shared experience and in the reclamation of language, culture and spirit. "Indian Horse" is a powerful story; it's voice echoed in the Truth and Reconciliation hearings being held across the country, as everyone who has suffered at the hands of residential schools has the opportunity to tell their own story.
The language of Richard Wagamese is spare and concise, removing any sense of sentimentality; the bits and pieces of the story either too beautiful or horrid to benefit from any embellishment. It is rich and evocative without an extra syllable to be found.
There are several themes running through the book - the wonderful spiritual connection to Saul's ancestors, the land and his own healing, the various communities that surround him at different times, the redemption and salvation found at the hockey rink and the gut-wrenching years at the school; the stories of the small, lost souls of St. Jerome's so powerful, I found myself waking in the night, thinking of them: Arden Little Light, Shane Big Canoe, Sheila Jack. This is where Wagamese has served us so well - by simply acknowledging them, seeing them and helping us to see them too. The small slivers of their stories, told in only a few sentences, gives life to their suffering and tells us all we need to know.
The writing is nearly matter-of-fact; this is what happened with never a whiff of self pity. It is wise, with moments of pure joy, despair, hope and dark evil; the healing power of the land countered by absolute cruelty and ignorance. You will hear the echo of this story long after you finish reading it.