“Three Day Road” is, I’m quite sure, one of my top three favourite books of all time (along with “American Gods” by Neil Gaiman, and “The Way the Crow Flies” by Ann-Marie MacDonald). I didn’t read “Through Black Spruce”, though I’ve heard good things. Basically, I had high hopes going into another Joseph Boyden book.
I really, really like the way the book opens. As in, the first page. “We had magic before the crows came.” Now that is a good opening sentence.
Unfortunately, things were a little rough after that. I spent 40 pages trying to figure out who the narrator was before I realized that (protip:) there are actually three narrators. A Huron man, an Iroquois girl, and a Jesuit priest. Even towards the end of the book it sometimes took a whole page before I could identify which character was speaking. I don’t know if that was intentional, but it was distracting. I would have really appreciated a little name in italics under each chapter heading or something.
Anyway, despite that, the book was well written, and as before Boyden does a great job of creating a setting that I can really feel a part of.
What I didn’t like were 1) the priest and 2) the lack of any orenda.
The problem with the priest might stem more from the fact that I’m an atheist than anything else. It was just so disgusting the way he criticized the ways and beliefs of the native people as being completely backward and nonsense, while at the same time trying to tell them that his way of doing things is obviously correct because his God says so. Fuck off. I can’t even. Not once does he ever have any sympathy or respect for a different belief system. Not once does he think he might be able to learn something from them. Maybe that’s realistic for a Jesuit priest at that time, but it doesn’t make it any less abhorrent.
Now, remember that amazing opening sentence I mentioned? It set up this great story where the native peoples have this magic, this deep connection to the nature that they are a part of, and struggle to hold onto it while the Crows advance into their world. There are hints of that throughout the novel, but Boyden never really uses it. The Gosling character is, one might say, a sorcerer, and promises to teach the Iroquois girl how to use her gift, but never follows through on it. Sure she implies being able to see the future from time to time, but that’s about it. We know that this is actually real magic we’re talking about here, as in actual telekinesis, not just mystical woo. The book is named for this stuff and it serves no purpose in the book. So that was very disappointing.
Right now it’s still miles ahead of Cockroach, but if one of the other books follows through on what it promises, it may not remain in the top spot for long.