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Through Black Spruce


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About the Author

Joseph Boyden is a Canadian of Irish, Scottish, and Metis roots. He divides his time between northern Ontario and Louisiana, where he teaches writing at the University of New Orleans.


Following up on the success of Three Day Road, Boyden delivers the powerful story of former bush pilot and Cree native Will Bird. The novel opens with Will in a coma, with his niece Annie, who just returned from an eight-month excursion in search of her sister, by his side. Narrated by Will and Annie, the story backtracks to tell of Will's fight to keep his bush-country Indian life alive and protected while he suppresses painful childhood memories (and befriends an old bear). Annie, a skillful hunter and animal trapper, dictates her escapades after rushing off to New York City in pursuit of her sister, Suzanne, a model who has shacked up with a member of the narcotics-smuggling Netmakers family. As Will struggles to survive and Annie reintegrates into the isolated bush, the two stories dovetail as the Netmakers cross paths with Will. Though the incongruously melodramatic denouement doesn't fit with the richly textured narrative preceding it, the novel as a whole is an intelligent, multilayered accomplishment, and well worth reading. (Mar.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.

Boyden's absorbing second novel (after Three Day Road) sweeps across northern Canada's barren landscape, capturing the dignity of the Cree people, who, haunted by their proud past, struggle with modern life. Two narratives intertwine, that of Will Bird, a Cree bush pilot lying comatose in a hospital, and Annie Bird, his niece who has just returned from New York City in search of her missing sister, Suzanne, a supermodel involved in the dicey Manhattan drug scene. Once back in Moose Factory, Ontario, Annie comes to Will's bedside every day, hoping he can hear her words about her futile search for Suzanne. From his comatose state, Will recounts his own life-his perilous flights as a bush pilot, his spiritual encounter with a blind old bear, his numerous run-ins with a local gang, and his continuous battle with alcoholism. Will's and Annie's linked stories, full of many eccentric characters, attest to their family's future survival despite all the misfortune and heartbreak. Boyden writes with unassailable authenticity; his latest is strongly recommended for all fiction collections.-Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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