Sunday, August 3, 2014

Book Review: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Update:  Wagamese's Indian Horse--the movie--has been reviewed on Rotten Tomatoes. Thanks to Netflix, I recently had a chance to watch this movie and it's almost as good as the book. 

My one-sentence review:  Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese is like a slap shot--a quick and powerful read. (scroll down for more...)

Blurb from the back cover:  Saul Indian Horse is in trouble, and there seems to be only one way out. As he journeys back through his life as a northern Ojibway, from the horrors of residential school to his triumphs on the hockey rink, he must question everything he knows. In Indian Horse, author Richard Wagamese has crafted a wise and magical novel about love, family and the power of spirit.

I took notes as I read...

'Many hearts beating together make us stronger.' (p. 2)

I'm so glad I decided to read Indian Horse after The Orenda--they are very compatible books. 

Wagmese's matter of fact writing style is very easy to read and before I know it I'm on page 30. And I'm not full; I hunger for more.

The narrator speaks in a simple, straightforward manner but words like 'ministrations' are off-putting. They make you question your assumptions regarding the narrator's background. I read on... 

Saul:  'I read once that there are holes in the universe that swallow light, all bodies. St. Jerome's [Indian Residential School] took all the light from my world. Everything I knew vanished behind me with an audible swish, like the sound a moose makes disappearing into spruce.' (p. 43)

If you've ever wondered about the cruelty inflicted on students at residential schools read chapter twelve. It's hard to but read it. And while you read remind yourself that these are children they are physically and mentally abusing.

'When your innocence is stripped from you, when your people are denigrated, when the family you came from is denounced and your tribal ways and rituals are pronounced backward, primitive, savage, you come to see yourself as less than human. That is hell on earth, that sense of unworthiness. That's what they inflicted on us.' (p. 81)

Saul on Hockey:  'I can't explain how it came to me, but I could see not just the physical properties of the game and the action but  the intent. If a player could control a measure of space, he could control the game.' (p. 58)

It's very important for the reader to see what Saul had to give up (his life with his family) and to see what he had to endure (in the residential school) so that we can appreciate what hockey gave to him. It gave him a reason to spring out of bed each morning; it instilled in him a love for life. 

This book would make a wonderful movie. (And it turns out it did.)

Wagamese love for the game of hockey rings out page after page. And it's infectious--even for this decidedly non-sport-minded woman. 

I want everything to work out for Saul. I want him to live happily ever after with the Kelly's. But I know it's not to be. I know because I'm only half-way through the book and I know because of the way this book began. 

Wagamese skillfully uses foreshadowing on page 140.

This would be an excellent book for a reluctant reader--especially one that loves hockey.

Chapter 48 is so powerful and underlines a message I firmly embrace as true--to heal you must remember.

Chapter 49 reads like a hard slap across the face. How could  be so naive? Why didn't I know? Why didn't I see?

I couldn't stop reading, but I didn't want it to end. Thank you, Richard Wagamese.

Friday's guest post:  Interview with Shirley Hershey Showalter (memoirist)

Sharing my author journey...

As I write, I've just come home from the comedy night at the Ag Hall on Mayne Island. The stand-up comedians who came from Victoria were brilliant as were the other two Mayne Islanders. And I'm so proud of myself. I was nervous before performing. But I've learnt strategy to deal with my anxiety and they helped. I loved being on the stage and even improvised a little before and after sharing my story--just a couple of years I ago doing something like that horrified me. Back then, I clung to my index cards for dear life. And after my performance I'm riding a big high that I'm sure will last a couple of days. Would I do this again? In a heart beat. : )
 Taken just before leaving home to go to the Ag Hall. Well, at the Ag Hall I just made one change. I took the flower out my hair and pinned it to my purse. Some women look really nice with flowers in their hair. But I've decided I'm not one of them. : )