At the beginning of this haunting and masterful novel from the late Wagamese (1955–2017), eight-year-old Saul Indian Horse is alone, having been abandoned in a blizzard in rural Ontario in 1961. He finds himself in this situation after his parents set off to bury his brother and are never seen again. Saul is left alone with his grandmother; the two then flee the family’s ancestral home on Gods Lake to Minaki, trying to escape the cold. After his grandmother succumbs to the cold, Saul is sent to St. Jerome’s, a Catholic boarding school run to forcefully assimilate indigenous children and “remove the Indian” from them. While his classmates succumb to disease, abuse, and suicide, Saul escapes when his natural talent for hockey lands him a spot on a local Ojibway team in 1966. Saul’s career progresses from unofficial tournaments at makeshift hockey rinks to the minor league in Toronto. However, it stalls after his skills on the ice attract rage from whites “in the black heart of northern Ontario in the 1960s.” Denied acceptance in the world of his choice, Saul is forced to reckon with the trauma of his upbringing and carve out a place for himself. In spare, poetic language, Wagamese wrestles with trauma and its fallout, and charts the long, lonely walk to survival. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 03/05/2018 Release date: 04/01/2018 Genre: Fiction
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