Motorcycles & Sweetgrass
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Motorcycles & Sweetgrass

3.73 of 5 stars 3.73  ·  rating details  ·  413 ratings  ·  60 reviews
A story of magic, family, a mysterious stranger . . . and a band of marauding raccoons.

Otter Lake is a sleepy Anishnawbe community where little happens. Until the day a handsome stranger pulls up astride a 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle – and turns Otter Lake completely upside down. Maggie, the Reserve’s chief, is swept off her feet, but Virgil, her teenage son, is less than...more
Hardcover, 368 pages
Published March 9th 2010 by Knopf Canada
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Blood Red Road by Moira YoungThe Gathering by Kelley ArmstrongAshes, Ashes by Jo TreggiariThe Way It Is by Donalda ReidChance to Dance for You by Gail Sidonie Sobat
White Pine Nominations 2012
6th out of 11 books — 38 voters
Monkey Beach by Eden RobinsonThrough Black Spruce by Joseph BoydenGreen Grass, Running Water by Thomas KingMotorcycles & Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden TaylorTraplines by Eden Robinson
Best Canadian Aboriginal Fiction
4th out of 27 books — 14 voters

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Community Reviews

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Jennifer Rayment
Ok just before I post this review I would just like to say -- This is Canadian -- and it is FANTASTIC -- finally a piece of Canadian literature that showcases our sense of humor and doesn't depress the crap out of you! I also would love to chat with this author on how much I loved his book and about his quirky sense of humor -- you must read this just alone for the conversation between Jesus and Nanabush (Trickster). I dare you not to laugh your ass off.

Good Stuff
The authors realistic portrayal...more
Since, in Drew's words, I'm a "wanabee" or "shouldabeen" Indian, and I like myths, this book was a wonderful read for me. The trickster was so beautifully described I think that I would have fallen for him too. I kept wondering why the natives thought he was so attractive since he was white, but I finally understand, that of course, he symbolizes the way the native people got sucked in by the bead traders and bible thumpers. Czech Reference: The bartender Karl was thinking "I left the Czech Repu...more
Actually a 3.5 but on the higher end of the scale. It's a bittersweet balance between humour and sadness; it's a farce; it's a throwback to the old Aboriginal myths; it's dealing with the loss of your culture and having to move on (and possibly even finding it again); and it's a coming-of-age tale too. Drew Hayden Taylor's good at making you smile then giving you a slap in the face right after--and vice versa--and he's not afraid to poke fun at religion and what's really sacred.

The thing is, so...more
This novel comes with a recommended dose of silliness. “A good bout of complete nonsense now and again would keep everybody sane.” A tall, handsome stranger rolls into town. This classic plotting device sets up a humorous, light-weight social drama that’s loaded with mischief and magic. Whimsical. Unpredictable. Entertaining. A delightful tale that with keep you smiling from start to finish.
Heather Pearson
His mother is the band chief, his grandmother, a respected elder, is dying, and he's related to half the members of Otter Lake, Virgil doesn't imagine that life could be any more difficult for an Anishnawbe teenager. That is, until a shiny red 1953 Indian Chief Motorcycle was driven into town by a mysterious blond haired, blue-eyed white man. To further complicate matters, this stranger walks right into his grandmother's house and her bedroom as though he was family.

Being a curious teenager, Vi...more
This book is somewhat about what it is to be Anishnawbe, and very much about what it is to be human. It is very Canadian: polite, with a sense of humour that pokes at the person telling the joke as much as it does anyone else.

Mr. Taylor draws us into a modern-day tale of Nanabush (he of many names) as he returns to old stomping grounds to find that many things have changed... and that many have not. Along the way, he encounters Virgil - a boy who is just finding out who he is, and his mother,...more
Great story. Trickster tale.

Kinda felt like Sammy was a loose end that wasn't tidied up to my satisfaction. I rather hoped that John would do something more for him rather that use him for a place to stay and steal his food to placate the Raccoons. Couldn't he have healed his wounds from residential school? And, slight ick factor that John loved Lillian and then went after her granddaughter... Nanabush or not, that's pretty disturbing. I liked the raccoons but felt the resolution to their age o...more
Maryam Khawaja
I'm glad this book was Canadian! Anyways, this book was pretty amazing, and I'm surprised I ended up liking a lot more than I thought I would. All the Aboriginal stuff made me really happy, I mean I'm not Native myself or anything, but I do enjoy learning about their ways and stuff. By the way, this Nanabush guy, John, he made me so mad half the time, I was hopping Wayne would shoot him in the head. Wayne was my favourite character by the way, haha, what a cool uncle, not weird! Maggie made mad...more
Mar 16, 2011 Natalie marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I just bought this book from Coles - they are having a 20% off fiction sale til tomorrow so I took advantage of the deal and saved 4 bucks (yay). I started reading it on the bus on the way home and it's written really well so far - pretty serious but knowing Taylor's style, it will pick up in humour soon. And the book is just so pretty to look at, the cover is in one of my favourite colours :P

I kind of expected more excitement from it...and more about the raccoons. There really wasn't enou...more
Sharon Stoneman
What a hoot! I really enjoyed this book. There are magical things going on here, and the fun is in just letting go and enjoying the ride. In to town rides a mysterious stranger - with a really hot motorbike. His appearance sends ripples of excitement and disquiet through the community and an unlikely band of allies come together to find out what the stranger is up to. I don't want to give away too much - but lets just say that I don't often read books in which raccoons are major players!

It is a...more
This book was the book chosen for our college book club. This is not typically my kind of book and I was sceptical at first but the book drew me in completely by the end of the prologue (which is only a few pages). Drew Hayden Taylor writes extremely well and I found myself laughing out loud a few times in this novel.

There are a lot of subtle messages about the existence of natives and 'white people' throughout the book that made me think about current issues we are facing today but the book ne...more
Shonna Froebel
This book reads like a traditional storyteller, with a wonderful flow to it. We see things from a variety of points of view, which only enhances the storyteller effect.
The tale takes place (mostly) in Otter Lake an Anishnawbe reservation community. The chief is in the final stages of negotiation to buy additional land for the reservation. Her constituents all have ideas about what to do with the property. Add to this that she is a single mother of a young teen boy. Add to this that her mother,...more
Jan 12, 2013 Robyn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
Lots of fun.

“The rider lifted its helmet a few inches until only its mouth was visible. And from that mouth came a loud caw. Not a human imitating a crow, but what seemed to the crow an authentic crow caw. The crow had been around for a few years and knew the difference. Crows do communicate, in their own way, and “I’m back” is what the crow heard.
The crow, having had enough of this weird business, decided to put a few treetops between himself and this creature. So it took to the air. Whoever o...more
Lisa RC
OKAY, so the reason for me reading this was because it was a white pine nominee. I was slightly uneasy with reading this book at first because of the title and synopsis, which made the whole raccoon thing sound weird. Regardless, it was a fun read. Some parts are hilarious and about halfway through the book, I got hooked. Reason to why I gave this book a 4/5 instead of perfect is because the ending is not as good as I hoped it would be and I couldn't really connect to some of the characters.

I would definitely recommend this book to people. The novel is an interesting mixture of aboriginal mythology and current social conditions. That might sound very heavy, but the story is actually quite humorous. Most people should be able to relate to this story of a single mother trying to balance work with raising a thirteen-year-old son, while a handsome stranger on a motorcycle causes excitement for the entire community of Otter Lake. Fun read.
Sabrina *The REAL Princess*
Why 2 stars? Because it was ok. You know how they say, "don't judge a book by its cover"? Well, that applies here. Initially, I thought this book would be the biggest waste of my time. I only read it for White Pine (although I am not sure why this particular book). So, giving it a 2 stars is a LOT better than the 0 stars I thought I would give it.

It's pretty funny. I laughed a couple times but honestly,there was nothing special. And the Jesus mention made me ... uncomfortable I guess. I'm sorry...more
My love of Aboriginal magic realism continues with Motorcycles and Sweetgrass, a buoyant tale of a 13-year-old boy, his overworked mom and a stranger who rides into the reserve on an Indian Chief bike. Drew Hayden Taylor is able to explore the tough topics of residential school abuse, native land claims and the uneasy relationship between reserves and their non-native neighbours in a voice that is both empathetic and just a touch mischievous. In other words, human. Which is just the right tone t...more
Neill Smith
When the handsome white stranger with the ever changing names and eye colors arrived at the Otter Lake Reserve on his 1953 Red Indian Chief motorcycle to say goodbye to the wife of the recently deceased chief and mother of the current chief his agenda wasn't clear. He had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Anishnawbe people's history which was odd for a white man but also impulsively pursued a war with the raccoons and a concerted seduction of the new chief much to the unhappiness of her son. AS e...more
I liked the book, it showed that there are more to the Natives that the common stereotype that they continue to live dreary lives because of colonization and urbanization of the Europeans (and other immigrants). It showed tension between the traditional Natives, who stuck with the traditions (like Sammy Aandeg and Lillian Benojee), and the new generation Natives, those who may have waded away from traditions (like Maggie and Virgil Second).

My favourite part would the thought and concern Lillian...more
Kevin Wilson
Really, really liked this book. It's for a book club read so I was prepared for it to be 'an assignment' that I had to get through rather than a pleasure read, but it was easy and enjoyable to move through. It follows a character names Nanabush - the native 'trickster' character- known by many different names across north America - taking a very unexpected form in a modern day Ontario first nations community. True to the character, the book is clever, funny, and takes unexpected turns. There are...more
Annie Moore
Fabulous book! I couldn't put it down. Just what I like. A story grounded in truth suffused with a bit of magic.
I was bored to death reading this... I didn't finish it.. but still. My librarian suggested this book to me, but overall, this book put me to sleep.

I was a little vary because of the cover and the description, but I heard praises about it so I decided to read it. I got through the first couple of chapters before I returned it.

Me reading this..
What a fun read this was!!! Ojibway trickster, Nanabush, descends on the reserve at Otter Lake in Norther Ontario and turns life upside down for its inhabitants. Maggie becomes emotionally involved with him, while her son, Virgil, is very suspicious of his intentions. With the help of his Uncle Wayne, a martial arts expert, they plan on ridding the community of Nanabush. Aiding the two humans are a large congregation of racoons bend on avenging the death of one of their members in long, long ago...more
Jun 06, 2011 Jenn rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: owned
I find the three braided strands of sweet grass to be an apt metaphor for Taylor's lush characters - John, Maggie, and Virgil - as well as the ideas of past, present, and future, respectively. This story brings together opposed forces in many humorous and moving combinations, marrying modern dilemmas with ancient lore. The distinct setting and secondary characters also colour this novel brightly. A truly beautiful piece of fiction.
Ellen Jaffe
May 04, 2011 Ellen Jaffe rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Ellen by: CBC Radio
I have recently read this funny but profound book set on a fictional Native reserve in Northern Ontario. Life is disrupted by the arrival of a mysterious blond stranger on a 1953 "Indian Chief" motorcycle -- could he be the reincarnation of the Ojibway trickster Nanabush? What will those raccoons do next? Great book by a well-known Canadian writer and playwright who describes himself as "Occasion" (Ojibway and Caucasian)!!
This book was absolutely delightful! I have always loved mythical stories and I think the author did a fantastic job of bringing a mythical character into a modern setting. One of my favourite scenes, that almost made me laugh out loud, was when one of the main characters was having an argument with a pack of chattering raccoons!
I read this book fairly quickly, and as soon as I was done I wanted to go back and read it again.
Sep 06, 2010 Alexis rated it 4 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2010
I have loved Drew Hayden Taylor's work for a long time, and he's finally written a novel! In this book, a Trickster-like character shows up on a reserve and transforms life for area residents. I loved the characters and the humour in this book and liked how Hayden Taylor drew on contemporary native issues by using a humourous tone full of magical realism.

I hope lots of people read this book.
Trash writing. Simplistic but not in a good way. Doesn't say anything interesting. Speaks in cliches and frustrating generalities. If I didn't know any better I would have thought it was written by an ambitious 12 year old. Even if you discount the terrible writing the social criticism sucks too. Reserves are a bureaucratic mess. Wow, who knew? At least it's a quick read, I guess.
Londonmabel Mabel
Sep 19, 2012 Londonmabel Mabel marked it as stopped-gave-up
I only read 20%, then read the ending and moved on to something else. I was having so much trouble getting into it, maybe cause the beginning was kind of too scattered.

But most of the reviews are really positive, so maybe I need to go back one day. The part of the book I enjoyed most were the points of view of the animals, so maybe I need to stick with it until the raccoons show up!
I really liked this book. It was interesting, funny and whimsical, and I found it hard to put down. It is set on an aboriginal reserve in northern ontario and what happens when a mythical trickster character shows up and disrupts the community. It was light, funny and I loved the characters. Oh and it is Canadian. Loved the raccoons ...
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UOIT FED Book Club: Motorcyles & Sweetgress 1 2 Jul 30, 2014 12:16PM  
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During the last twenty-five years of his life, Drew Hayden Taylor has done many things, most of which he is proud of. An Ojibway from the Curve Lake First Nations in Ontario, he has worn many hats in his literary career, from performing stand-up comedy at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., to being Artistic Director of Canada's premiere Native theatre company, Native Earth Performing Arts. He...more
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