Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Reader's Diary #884- Joseph Boyden: Through Black Spruce

Six years ago Joseph Boyden's Three Day Road was one of the first books I reviewed. (Book Mine Set trivia: the first was Shakespeare's Hamlet.) But back then I took more time with each book, blogging at various points as I read, meaning I had a total of 7 posts on Three Day Road alone. Now that sort of in depth analysis would drive me crazy,  yet when I look at my stats, they remain some of my most popular posts, still bringing in a couple or so readers a day. Sorry to say, my post for Through Black Spruce won't be anywhere near as lengthy.

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.


Kate said...

I also enjoyed this book, and it is one that has stuck with me through the 3 years since I read it. Just this morning, I was listening to an interview on our local CBC with a man from Moosonee talking about his first experience goose hunting - the interview took me straight back to Through Black Spruce even though the interview had nothing to do with the book. I too am looking forward to the 3rd installment of the trilogy!

Jules said...

I loved Three Day Road, but this one has been sitting on my shelf for a while. I'm worried that it may not live up to the first. But by the sounds of it, the book has the same depth of characterization as the first, so hopefully I'll find time to read it, soon.