The Lesser Blessed: A Novel
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The Lesser Blessed: A Novel

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4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  322 ratings  ·  35 reviews
A fresh, funny look at growing up Native in the North, by award-winning author Richard Van Camp.

Larry is a Dogrib Indian growing up in the small northern town of Fort Simmer. His tongue, his hallucinations and his fantasies are hotter than the sun. At sixteen, he loves Iron Maiden, the North and Juliet Hope, the high school "tramp." When Johnny Beck, a Metis from Hay River...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published April 6th 2004 by Douglas & McIntyre (first published 1996)
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Canadian Books Adapted for TV/Film
6th out of 43 books — 4 voters
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2nd out of 21 books — 7 voters


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Shannon (Giraffe Days)
The Lesser Blessed is set in the fictional town of Fort Simmer - based on Fort Smith in the Northwest Territories, a very harsh, bleak part of Canada. Seventeen-year-old Larry is a Dogrib (Tlicho) Indian (as is the author), living with his mother who's studying part-time to be a teacher. Tall and skinny and covered in burn scars under his clothes, he has a wildly active mind and a poet's tongue. When he becomes friends with Johnny Beck, a Métis boy recently arrived in town who already has a repu...more
Gail Amendt
I met Richard Van Camp recently at an early childhood education conference and decided I had to read his book. It is hard to believe that such a nice, funny man, and writer of beautiful children's books, could write such a raw, dark, disturbing novel. This coming of age story about a native teen growing up in the fictional town of Fort Simmer, NWT (based on Van Camp's home town of Fort Smith), deals with drugs, alcoholism, abuse, promiscuity and tragedy. It is not for the faint of heart, and def...more
Cathy Olliffe-Webster
I've always been fascinated by Canada's far north and the people who live there, and this book paints what must be an honest picture of what it means to be there. This is a compelling, fast read. I was drawn to keep turning the pages, to see what happens next – but when I was done I went straight back to the beginning to read it again, only slower, because I wanted to savour Van Camp's fabulous words. This novel should be a Canadian classic and Van Camp should now be included alongside Canada's...more
Shannon
So I've been trying to think of a better word than "feverish" to describe the feeling of reading this book, because I think that word is trite and cliche.. but I really can't. It's fitting; especially because this book has a good amount of drug use and therefore drug-induced haziness and it thus feels kind of deluded and cloudy. Which is apt because, this is a book that deals with adolescence, which is fitting to be portrayed as being a confusing, disorienting, druggy, kind of time.

That style to...more
Peter
Richard Van Camp is not a widely-read author at this point in his developing literary career, but this short novel is a vivid, searing account of growing up native in rural Canada. I admire this book because of the unabashed intensity of the content and the clarity of the descriptions; the result is that it comes across as honest, unaffected, and tremendously powerful. The story is told from the point of the main character, Larry Sole, a teenager who is a member of the Dogrib Nation, and we see...more
Frank Busch
The novel paints a portrait of a Northern First Nations youth coming of age in the lower socio-economic strata of society while coming to terms with a horrific past filled with trauma and abuse.
Van Camp writes from the perspective of someone who has lived in the north and has experienced the interplay of the haves and the have-nots which is further complicated by the cross sectioning of First Nations, Metis and European cultures.

Even those who have not experienced the northern life can immerse...more
S.c. Jensen
Stunning. This book left me feeling completely raw. It is painfully beautiful and heart-breakingly funny. I think what I took away most from The Lesser Blessed is Van Camp's obvious love of life. It is incredibly difficult to write about drugs and abuse in such a convincingly real and horrifying way and still leave the reader with a hopeful and positive feeling when they put down the book. And that was my experience. Beautiful.
Tamara Eaker
This book was the most honest, to the human nature, that I have read in a long time. I love of Richard Van Camp portrays the honest thoughts and emotions of a deeply wounded teen. Not every teen gets to live in a fantasy world, for they aren't vampires or werewolves. I like just how honest and raw this whole book is, up till the end. I would ,and have, recommended this book to others.
Ryan
Reading this was like staring into a vat of dark chocolate; hypnotizing and difficult not to fall into the void. Larry's meandering stories remind me of the infamous "cracked out" stories we passed amongst our friends in high school.
" I don't go to high school, I go to school high" is one of the many trite and beautiful one liners in the book. Bruce Campbell would be proud, sugar.
Alexis
Jan 02, 2014 Alexis rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2014
I read this book years ago. I remember liking it, but didn't remember much about it. This year, I saw the movie, which was fantastic. I decided to re-read the book and was so glad I did. It's a really wonderfully written and gutsy piece. I also have a greater appreciation for it since I went on vacation in the north this year.
Orionisisgray
Like Sherman Alexie's _Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven_ mixed with _War Boy_ by Kief Hillsberry, mixed with _Catcher in the Rye_ mixed with Freaks and Geeks. I'm feeling it.
Orenda
A wonderful read, particularly if you've grown up on a Rez. He manages to articulate in such a small book, all the wonderful and crappy things about Rez life, the relationships we forge, and the loneliness of it all. He doesn't hold back punches, so if you're looking for a book that's nice and neatly painted some fantastical portrait of living in a remote area with nothing to do, you should probably find another book. This book is filled with pain, sadness, and is mildly offensive to those who a...more
Danielle
I picked this up on a whim, and I'm glad that I did. Van Camp's novel explores the world of Larry, a Native American teenager living in the Canadian North, and explores topics such as Native culture in modern society, the legacy of residential schools, masculine coming of age, peer pressure, substance abuse, guilt, violence, familial and romantic relationships, sexuality, poverty and ineffectual education.

The writing style of the novel is mostly stream-of-consciousness, interspersed with more ep...more
Jk612
This was a very beautiful book filled with meaningful and developed characters, and lines that will stab at your heart. Larry is such a complex character filled with so much darkness and wonder, and I found myself intrigued by him.

This is definitely a great book for older readers who want something different and fresh. The mood throughout the book stays relatively the same- dark and dreary- but there are the occasional funny comments (especially by Johnny's younger brother!) to lighten things up...more
Maureen
I nearly put this down at first because the voice was a little too butch for my taste. I'm so glad I stuck with it. For such a short book, this is amazingly layered. It's also beautifully written. I've gone from "Am I going to finish this?" to "How soon I can I re-read this?"
Lindsey
I'm trying to get a head start on my reading for fall semester, and this is the first book for my independent study in American Indian literature. Set in Canada's Northwest Territories, the story is an incredible blend of humor, tragedy, family dynamics, young love, Dogrib storytelling, and '90s music culture--all in only 120 pages. My only criticism is that the dialogue felt a little dated at times, but overall, I loved Van Camp's writing style, which totally sucked me into its fast-paced spira...more
Elissa Washuta
I would give this book seven stars if I could. It's a slim book, incredibly thick with sparkling prose, amazing characters, crackling dialogue, a crushing story. Read it. I want to read it again and again.
Kelly Mos
This coming of age novel is very dark and is probably inappropriate for young readers. The story is full of teenage drama- sex, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, rape, parental neglect, etc. It is captivating but in the end it lacks a solid plot-line.
Dara Potvin
Studied this in my Canadian Literature course and truly enjoyed it. A story about growing up as a child/young man in an indigenous community.
Jasreet Badyal
This book is heart-wrenching. The writing grabbed me and I found myself feeling the struggles of the main character, Larry. I had many moments where I found myself sitting in the heaviness and difficulty of coping. It's hard to describe what precisely had resonance for me from this book, but I feel it has settled into my being in some way, one that I'll carry with me.
E. Majerus
Poetry + heavy metal + sex, drugs, and rocknroll + a likable first nations teenage narrator facing his demons in the North of Canada. A winner.
Lara
I've been trying to figure out what to compare this work to, and it's kind of like febrile poetry mixed with coming-of-age story mixed with teenage sex romp meets First Nations hardships, so... Kinsella, Roth, Salinger and Hunter S. Thompson? In any case I loved it, it's so weird unique. But I am being too glib; it's a book with such complexity that when I finished, I wanted to turn it over and read it again immediately. I just know that the story will reveal more and more with each reading.
Sharla
I can't say I would recommend this book to my friends. It was foul, heart wrenching and raw. However, the story is extremely well done and the subject matter is thought provoking. It is also an eye opener as to what some kids face in today's world. I did love the Native American aspect, and it is because of that part that I would read this again in order to explore the deeper meaning of the stories.
Lori
I read this for a class in American Indian Lit and while it was great for that, I wouldn't necessarily have picked up the book on my own and read it. It's a coming of age story about a young man who has a closet full of demons, yet he turns out to be the most functional of all the people around him. I would recommend to 18 and above due to some very adult situations.
Christina Elisabeth J
I really enjoyed reading this book, and I will definitely read it again sometime! :)

I did find it a bit hard to read, as I read it when I was 15-16 (and english isn't my first language). I think it would be a lot easier for me now, as I'm a bit older, and my english is better.

All in all, it's definitely worth the read :)
Kim Trusty
The Lesser Blessed has left me wrung out. Raw. Head pounding with what may be unshed tears. Larry's story, as he tells it, is beautiful and brutal and funny and sad. Even some of the more violent passages are poetry. Can't say that I'll ever (want to) read this book again but it'll stick with me.
Blackraven
A nice story but sometimes I find the characters a little bit strange. Not my favourite book. The storyline is a little bit confusing. If you understand the story you'll have read the half of it. The books told about the life of some canadian natives. It's kind of a love and life story.
Kara
Amazing. Some of the best 128 pages I've ever read. It's raw, unflinching, in your face, incredibly dark and honest and real. Not to be confused at all with his children's books, which are wonderful and joyous celebrations of childhood innocence.
Heather
Mesmerizing, reads like a dream. The content may be dark but the story feels light to me. It also seems like it has a life of its own, each time I read it I expect it to have changed, but maybe it's just me doing the changing.
Willner9
I feel like this book should be required reading in high schools. It is disturbing at times, and sad,but the prose ranges from beautiful to devastating to crude (these are teenagers after all). I wish that it had been longer.
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A Dogrib (Tlicho) Dene from Fort Smith, NWT, Richard Van Camp is an internationally renowned storyteller and best-selling author. He is the author of the novel, The Lesser Blessed, a collection of short stories, Angel Wing Splash Pattern, and two children’s books with Cree artist, George Littlechild. His new baby book: Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns is the official selection of the...more
More about Richard Van Camp...
Little You Angel Wing Splash Pattern The Moon of Letting Go: And Other Stories Welcome Song for Baby: A Lullaby for Newborns Godless but Loyal to Heaven

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