Thursday, April 12, 2012

Reader's Diary #818- Margaret Macpherson: Body Trade

I haven't read a lot of road trip books (only Volkswagen Blues and On The Road come immediately to mind), but I love the idea of them. Body Trade has additional appeal to me as the road trip sets out from Yellowknife. It eventually winds up in Belize, but through flashbacks and a side story based on a real news event of the early 70s, the north maintains a strong presence.

Body Trade is about a couple of young women-- one white and marginally older, the other Dene-- who set off to... well, why do a lot of young people take off on road trips? Bored and looking for adventure? Check. Trying to escape some of life's crap? Check.

The story alternates focus between the two girls and the contrast between the two keeps things interesting. Tanya, the older one, is a tough as nails kind of character, who-- for right or for wrong-- trusts her own instincts more than anyone else's. Rosie on the other hand, is more trusting by nature, but is silently contemplative. Just when you think Macpherson may be dangling these characters perilously close to cliches, they begin to grow. They don't grow as much as to give the novel a 22 minute sitcom style resolution, but enough to add some flesh to the characters.

As a parallel story, the infamous Martin Hartwell/ David Kootook tragedy is recounted. I can't believe I'd missed learning about it until now, though apparently it made national headlines way back in the day. Stompin' Tom even immortalized it in song.

While there are light moments-- some tender, some even funny-- the books is overall not a happy-go-lightly read and the themes of Body Trade are rich for discussion (it would make a great book club choice): feminism, racism, exploitation, sexuality, survival, you name it.

A great novel.

1 comment:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Well now I'll have to go look up this tragedy of which you speak. Apparently I was away that day too.

I'll have to check into this book. Love a good road trip tale!