I’m gonna start this one off with a confession.
I love Joseph Boyden. Love, love, love him. And it’s not just because he’s a stone cold fox (for real though, google that shit) or because of any feelings of national solidarity towards a fellow Canuck (not much of a nationalist myself). It’s because the dude can write.
His most recent novel, The Orenda, was the one that pulled me into his orbit, and I’ve devoured and enjoyed everything of his I could get my hands on ever since. So far, for me, he’s 3/3.
So, when I laid my hands on this collection of stories my expectations were pretty high. I was also a little nervous. Not everybody who’s a good (or excellent) novelist, is a good short story writer, and vice versa, and there’s few things as disappointing as reading something underwhelming from a writer that you love. ( I say that while acknowledging that artists create their art for themselves, that they owe me nothing, and that it’s ridiculous to assume every piece of work a person produces is going to have a consistent level of quality. That’s unreasonable, and I know that).
Luckily enough for all of us, it’s great! So great! In fact, I don’t think there was a single story in here that I didn’t love. I’m not sure that’s ever happened before, especially with such a diverse collection. So, I’ve been saved the pain of being disappointed by a writer that I really like, and you’ve been saved the pain of reading an eight-hundred-word bitch fest about all the negative feels it gave me.
One of my favourite things about this collection is the broad range of POV characters displayed. The tales swing from an old man who’s slowly losing his grip on reality (though not as much as the people around him assume) to his town drunk of a nephew, a woman raised (and crushed) by the residential school system to a frustrated white priest. And Boyden nails every of them. He clearly understands and cares for the cast he’s created, and he infuses his depiction of them with such empathy and emotional depth that I found myself moved by even the worst of them (hint: it’s definitely the condescending, bitter priest); each of them bursts onto the page with a fleshed out and fully formed personality, a lived in history and identity.
Wickedly funny, savagely sad, and marbled throughout with thick veins of anger and discontent. It’s brilliant stuff, and you should do yourself the favour of checking it out.