Monday, December 08, 2008

#70 - Through Black Spruce

My head has been pounding all day and my stomach just won't settle. I've been peeing in a jug -- the test that I hate the most when it comes to disease maintenance -- and this morning the blood tech took forever to draw out what she needed. All of these petty insufferables, the annoyance of the snow blowing around, the pain in my sinuses that just won't seem to go away, the same pain that woke me at 3 AM and held on tight until 6 when I managed to fall back asleep for an hour, were simply swept away when I finished Joseph Boyden's amazing Through Black Spruce.

Easily one of the best novels I've read this year, entirely deserving of its Giller crown, and utterly unstoppable in its narrative, the novel echoed around my heart like sweet poetry and made me fall hard for the words between its covers. Carrying forth with the descendants of Xavier and Elijah from his first beloved book, Three Day Road, the novel's protagonists, Will Bird, son of the former and his niece Annie, take turns spilling out their stories in interchanging chapters. The novels reads as though they're telling one another all of their secrets. Bits and pieces that need to be put together for either to move on with their lives. Annie, back from the south, back from searching for her lost sister, Suzanne, tends to her uncle who lies in a coma in a hospital in Moose Factory.

Back and forth from past to present, the pair unravel the reasons why and how they've ended up where they are -- Annie's found trouble of her own in Toronto, in NYC, in Montreal; Will's been out in the bush for reasons that I won't spoil. Their lives, far more intertwined and complex than simply saying they share the same blood, spill over into one another's over and over again as the story pushes forth, as reliable as the weather, as the seasons.

The ending, oh, the ending, moments ago, me, crying like a baby wrapped up in my bedcovers, wishing for my headache to go away but silently thanking it for giving me a whole day to experience this book. I'm gushing, I know, but phooey to those who say that Through Black Spruce isn't as good as Three Day Road. I remember reading the latter when I first started working in publishing, a tattered ARC broken almost entirely apart in the 24 hours it was in my possession, a ridiculously long transit ride sped by in what felt like minutes as the narrative simply swept me away. The same happened here. And while the first book, if I had to boil it down to just one theme (and how dare I, really), I'd say it was about change -- both on an epic as well as a more personal level. This novel, while continuing that general idea, is also about loss, both on a grand scale, in dealing with an entire culture, and on a personal one, in dealing with the acute pain that comes with the absence of loved ones.

One of the best books I've read this year, hands down. I just adored it, all of it, flaws and all.

READING CHALLENGES: I could count this novel towards my Canadian Reading Challenge but as Joseph Boyden's not a lady...I'm afraid it'll just have to be another in the list of books I've read this year.

WHAT'S UP NEXT: Here's my stack: "A Christmas Carol, The Other Queen, The Given Day, The Plot Against America, Lush Life, Through Black Spruce, The Origin of Species, The Boys in the Trees, The Double, The Almost Moon and Middlemarch." I'm not sure where I'll go next, but it'll be something from the above list.


Sandra said...
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Sandra said...

Great review. I just finished this one too and I agree. Makes me wonder why I bother reading dubious quality ARCs when I could be reading writing this good.I have not read Three Day Road but I am going to correct that situation asap. I read The Boys in the Trees and loved it too. It deserved the nomination too. I will be reading Origin of the Species and The Given Day also. My health has caught up to me so I'm not writing reviews for a while, but I look forward to more of yours.
And I hope you are feeling much better soon.

Kailana said...

Well, you just sold me. I have had this book out to read about six times, but I always read something else. I finished my current book earlier, so now is the perfect time to go grab this off my shelf! Thanks!

Melanie said...

I'd like to read both of his books - haven't got to them yet. I always say that librarians should get a week off yearly to catch up on their reading; maybe that should be extended to publishing people too!

sassymonkey said...

I started this one, got sidetracked by something else and then haven't gotten back to it. Maybe over the holidays.

I was thrilled that he won the Giller.