Tuesday, October 23, 2012
Reader's Diary #884- Joseph Boyden: Through Black Spruce
Granted I still enjoyed the book. It has some heavy hitting themes of trust, lies, repercussions, betrayal, the power of story-telling, loss, and identity, but yet it doesn't come across as heavy handed. The chapters are short and go back and forth between Annie, who is searching for her missing sister and their uncle Will who lies in a coma. The focus on a couple central characters makes the book easier to take in and it's hard not to connect with these flawed, but ultimately likeable people.
I enjoyed the settings of Through Black Spruce, primarily in Moose Factory, but also in Montreal, New York and a few other locales. Occasionally, however, I found the scenes in Moose Factory a little too intentionally educational. There are more than a few times when, for instance, Will who is telling his story to Annie, describes his trapping and hunting in details that he just wouldn't share with someone who already knew how to trap or gut a moose. My father is a hunter, I've hunted with him. When he told me of his most recent moose hunting trip, he didn't go into details about how he made what incisions. It was during these times that you could sense Boyden beyond the voice, aiming his book at an urban reader, and it removed me from the story.
Recently I discovered an old National Post article by Alex Good and Steven W. Beattie in which they listed Boyden as one of 10 overrated Canadian authors. One of their beefs with Through Day Road is that the scenes set in Manhattan read as if researched by watching America's Next Top Model. Yet I almost appreciated those scenes more as they didn't seem as forced. The urban reader, we could assume, would already have a familiarity with New York and so Boyden didn't have to teach us about it. He could just get on with the story.
Otherwise, I quite enjoyed the depth of Boyden's characters, as I did with those of Three Day Road. Apparently, these books are supposed to be part of a trilogy following the Bird family legacy and I look forward to reading the next installment, whenever that will be.