The novel is a follow up to Mr. Boyden's award winning novel "Three Days Road", recounting the histories and lives of two fictional James Bay Cree families (The Birds and the Whiskeyjacks).
This latest novel centers on Will Bird, son of Xavier Bird, the heroic soldier we were introduced to previously. The story comes to live through two intertwined monologues. We follow Will's thoughts while he recovers from a serious plane crash, a near death encounter that has left him comatose in a hospital bed. Will is an engaging storyteller, a bush pilot by trade and a charming alcoholic by fate with many tales of adventure to tell, some a hoot and some distressful to hear. Alternate chapters are narrated by his niece Annie Bird while she sits in vigil by his bedside trying to stimulate him back to the living. She uses the time to recount her adventures in Toronto, Montreal and New York while in search of her lost sister Suzanne.
These flashbacks create short stories in their lives, each one a glimpse into the desolate forests that surround James Bay and the all too similar affect the underground fashion world can have on someone not accustom to the rat race of the big cities. Each layer reveals secrets of violence, incompetence, kindness, love and compassion.
The novel is hard to get into at first, the story launches quickly into two narratives, each one hard to decipher which character is talking and how the bits of information fit together. I gradually immersed myself into the tale and once settle, let the story run its course. I was drawn in by the vivid description of Canada's vast wilderness and its inhabitants who call it home, the Cree. It was an eye opener realizing the challenges and hardship native people face in big cities where there is a multitude of cultures all trying to survive. The characterization is powerful and the players come across as genuine and loveable. Although the pacing is very slow and the reading is tedious at times, in retrospect I enjoyed the refreshing and informative look into another way of life..