Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Joseph Boyden's novel about two young James Bay Cree men who go off together to fight in the first world war has received wide acclaim since it was published in 2005.  I listened to a Recorded Books unabridged audiobook edition (16 hours). The story is told in two alternating voices; Robert Ramirez reads the part of Xavier Bird and Ruth Ann Phimister reads the part of Xavier's aunt Niska. Both readers use a clear, calm and steady style.

Xavier has returned from the war severely injured in body and spirit. He experiences vivid flashbacks to the horrors of the battlefield, where he and his best friend Elijah Whiskeyjack were snipers. Niska tells stories to Xavier in order to keep him from giving up on life as she transports the two of them back into the northern Ontario bush by canoe. The novel translates extremely well to oral storytelling. An additional pleasure was to hear the occasional Cree words spoken, especially the titles of each chapter.

Highly recommended. Boyden's subsequent novel, Through Black Spruce, follows Xavier's descendants to present day. Readalike: Kiss of the Fur Queen by Tomson Highway.

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