Saturday, August 1, 2015

Medicine Walk

I really enjoyed this book which centers on the heart-rending moments of a young man's journey through the dying and burying of his biological father, and that man's attempt to share who he is with a son he does not know.

The book is set in the mountains of Canada and features strong influences of issues surrounding Native American which play a major part in the novel. The writing reminded me of Kent Haruf's Plainsong triology, which I also loved. Who we are, where we come from, what makes a family: these are the things so many of us struggle with since each family has its struggles, difficulties, and dysfunctional moments. Wagamese taps into these essential questions in a very poignant way which drew me in from the beginning. My heart immediately went out to Franklin and the old man, and eventually came to embrace Eldon and the other characters we meet.

Those who say that Wagamese is a natural storyteller speak the truth. It should be no surprise then, that this novel revolves around the stories that the characters have to tell and the importance of sharing our selves through that medium. That the two most influential women in Eldon's life had been natural storytellers was no surprise. That the old man and Franklin value words so highly that they use them with economy and purpose is a marvelous flip-side of that coin.

I love the title Medicine Walk because it works on so many levels with the story. Franklin mentions that this is what the old man called their forays into nature to live off the land and all that the Earth provides. It also serves as an apt description for the journey Franklin and Eldon are on as they rely on Becca's medicine to see them through to the journey's end. Finally, the time spent together and the stories shared along the way provide the medicine each man's soul needs through the reconciling of lives.

I am so thrilled to have been introduced to this author and I offer thanks to the publisher for the ARC I received in exchange for this review. You can be sure I will be getting my hands on more of Wagamese's writing in the future!

From the Publisher . . .

When Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, he has mixed emotions. Raised by the old man he was entrusted to soon after his birth, Frank is haunted by the brief and troubling moments he has shared with his father, Eldon. When he finally travels by horseback to town, he finds Eldon on the edge of death, decimated from years of drinking.

The two undertake difficult journey into the mountainous backcountry, in search of a place for Eldon to die and be buried in the warrior way. As they travel, Eldon tells his son the story of his own life—from an impoverished childhood to combat in the Korean War and his shell-shocked return. Through the fog of pain, Eldon relates to his son these desolate moments, as well as his life’s fleeting but nonetheless crucial moments of happiness and hope, the sacrifices made in the name of love. And in telling his story, Eldon offers his son a world the boy has never seen, a history he has never known.

About the Author . . .

Richard Wagamese is one of Canada’s foremost Native authors and storytellers. Working as a professional writer since 1979 he’s been a newspaper columnist and reporter, radio and televison broadcaster and producer, documentary producer and the author of eleven titles from major Canadian publishers with a new novel, Indian Horse, coming in early 2012.

He has been a success in every genre of writing he has tried. The 56 year-old Ojibway from the Wabaseemoong First Nation in Northwestern Ontario became the first Native Canadian to win a National Newspaper Award for Column Writing in 1991. As a published author he was won the Canadian Authors Association Award for Fiction for his third novel Dream Wheels, in 2007 and the Alberta Writers Guild Best Novel Award for his debut novel, Keeper’n Me in 1994. Addititionally, his memoir One Native Life was one of The Globe and Mail’s 100 Best Books of 2008 and the memoir One Story, One Song was awarded the George Ryga Award for Social Awareness in Literature in 2011.

He published an anthology of his newspaper columns, The Terrible Summer in 1996 with Warwick Press and his second novel, A Quality of Light, in 1997 from Doubleday. A critically acclaimed memoir entitled For Joshua: An Ojibway Father Teaches His Son arrived in October 2002, Dream Wheels in 2006, and the novel Ragged Company and his acclaimed and bestselling memoir One Native Life in 2008. He published the follow-up to One Native Life, the acclaimed memoir, One Story, One Song in February 2011 and his first collection of poetry, Runaway Dreams, in July 2011, followed by The Next Sure Thing, a novel in Orca Press’ Rapid Reads Series in October 2011.

He has twice won the Native American Press Association Award and the National Aboriginal Communications Society Award for his newspaper columns. Currently, his series One Native Life runs as a radio commentary and newspaper column in both Canada and the U.S. and was a weekly television commentary on CFJC-TV 7 in Kamloops, BC from 2007 to 2010.

Richard continues to lead writing and storytelling workshops in communities across the country. He was honored with an Honorary Doctor of Letters degree from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops in June 2010 in recognition of lifetime achievement in writing and publishing and was the 2011 Harvey Stevenson Southam Guest Lecturer in Professional Writing at the University of Victoria. Richard has also been honored with the 2012 National Aboriginal Achievement Award for Media & Communications.

An esteemed public speaker and storyteller, he lives in the mountains outside of Kamloops, British Columbia with his wife, Debra Powell, and Molly the Story Dog.

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