Friday, June 03, 2005

#28 Three Day Road

Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road is one of those rare books that you read and automatically believe will become a classic of Canadian, if not world, literature.

Three Day Road tells the story of two Native Canadian men, Xavier Bird and Elijah Whiskeyjack, who leave Northern Ontario to join the army and fight in the First World War. Interspersed with Xavier's story is the story of his aunt, Niska, who raised him.

It's a haunting, intelligent and meticulously researched book that provides a very different perspective on the war. But it's also a wonderfully genuine novel about the love of one woman for her nephew, for her way of life, and how the world changed the Native Canadian experience both by its modernization and by the evils of colonialism. Xavier's life changes the minute he steps out of his canoe and into a world where bombs explode and morphine addiction becomes a way of life for many of the young soldiers.

It's a book that deals with the heroic actions of the Canadians, of how it changed our national identity, but only in context to Xavier's very real and very different perspective on life as a Canadian solider. As the tale circles around the relationship between the two men, Xavier, quiet, withdrawn, and Elijah, outgoing and with a talent for languages, they change in ways that Boyden carefully relates through how they deal with the war.

It's a glorious novel, and one that I won't be able to forget any time soon. One that resonates with you even though your stomach is churning and your own body refuses to rest.

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