cover image Medicine Walk

Medicine Walk

Richard Wagamese. Milkweed (PGW, dist.), $22 (256p) ISBN 978-1-57131-115-3

Canadian author and memoirist Wagamese (Indian Horse) has penned a complex, rugged, and moving father-son novel. Franklin Starlight, a 16-year-old Ojibway Indian, is summoned to the Canadian mill town of Parson’s Gap by his alcoholic father, Eldon Starlight, to discuss an important matter. Franklin goes reluctantly, since he has a dysfunctional and distant relationship with his dad. (Franklin was raised by a rancher identified only as “the old man.”) Eldon persuades Franklin to take him on a 40-mile journey to an isolated ridge to die (he suffers from a cirrhotic liver) so that he can be buried “in the warrior way.” Wagamese deftly weaves in the backstory as Eldon, racked with heartache and horror, relates different episodes from his past (when he’s lucid enough). Initially, Franklin is unsympathetic to his father’s plight, which seems to be caused by a lifetime of boozing and womanizing. However, as Eldon tells his tales, including that of his harrowing ordeal in the Korean War, which precipitated his chronic drinking, Franklin comes to see his father in a new light. Wagamese’s muscular prose and spare tone complement this gem of a narrative, which examines the bond between father and son. (May)