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Motorcycles & Sweetgrass

3.75  ·  Rating Details  ·  624 Ratings  ·  87 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
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 — 37 voters
Three Day Road by Joseph BoydenMonkey Beach by Eden RobinsonGreen Grass, Running Water by Thomas KingThrough Black Spruce by Joseph BoydenThe Inconvenient Indian by Thomas King
Best Canadian Aboriginal Fiction
8th out of 37 books — 30 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,295)
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Drew Hayden Taylor is a humorist, and his book is like some kind of social portrait with many layers of the Anishnawbe modern society, critical, funny, mythical and painful. It could be read as an entertaining funny tale of a Canadian place, or you could feel uncomfortable by the in-between lines. The best comedians hit the nail with our weakness and our idiosyncrasy, the silliness and the ugly truths (estoy pensando aqui en el Coco Legrand).

A dying old woman is the last connection to the wor
Jennifer Rayment
Apr 14, 2010 Jennifer Rayment rated it it was amazing
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
May 13, 2013 Mila rated it really liked it
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
Dec 08, 2012 Indrani rated it really liked it
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,
Sharon Stoneman
May 26, 2011 Sharon Stoneman rated it really liked it
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
Erika Toffelmire
Dec 30, 2015 Erika Toffelmire rated it liked it
Motorcycles and Sweetgrass is a bit of a silly book- but I think this is precisely the point of the story. Silliness, fun, and magic are key pieces of this story; a stranger comes to Otter Lake Reserves, sweeping the chief Maggie off her feet and making enemies of her son Virgil and his uncle Wayne (not to mention an army of raccoons). While enjoyable to read, I wished it went a bit deeper into some of the Anishnawbe folklore and answered a few more questions I had about the characters. I think ...more
Mar 13, 2014 Patricia rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 05, 2015 Donna rated it really liked it
I picked this book up at LitFest this year and I'm glad that I did. I've read other books by Drew Hayden Taylor but they were non-fiction. this book was so entertaining. There was lots of native culture but it wasn't stand alone - it was just part of the story. The humour was very subtle. The story of the handsome stranger riding into town on his motorcycle and turning lives upside down is both funny and mysterious. And wait until you get to the racoons! Then there's the local diner's version of ...more
Nadine Hiemstra
Nov 28, 2015 Nadine Hiemstra rated it really liked it
Shelves: indigenous-lit
I finished this book with a sense of disappointment - that it hadn't really provided me with a striking plot or left me with a sense that something profound had been share with me. It wasn't until I started to talk with others who read it that I began to understand the depth behind the silly and quirky characters. Maybe the deeper parts of this book are share only with those that understand the culture behind it. When you begin to understand that the aboriginal people portrayed in this book conn ...more
Sep 12, 2014 Marie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first book in a long time to grab my attention and refuse to let go - I stayed up too late three nights in a row to finish it. Full of universal human truths, it opened my eyes to a culture just over the Canadian border from my own, but a world away in tradition and myth. Tragedy is interwoven with humor in a true-to-life way. I very much identified with young widow Maggie emerging from mourning and overwhelming self-imposed responsibility to a new romantic relationship. While I unde ...more
Heather Pearson
Aug 07, 2010 Heather Pearson rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 06, 2012 Liz rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2012, canadian-author
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
Apr 07, 2012 Maryam rated it really liked it
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
Natalie Carvajal
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
Apr 09, 2012 Ryan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Shonna Froebel
Jun 08, 2015 Shonna Froebel rated it it was amazing
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,
Sep 10, 2015 Lester rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Oh yes!! Drew Hayden Taylor, I love your story telling! Thankx.

"Never underestimate the need for some sheer silliness," said John. "That's why some people drink. That's why some people take drugs. Of course that's the cheap way out. A good bout of complete nonsense now and again would keep everybody sane. You can quote me on that."

For sure!
Jan 12, 2013 Robyn rated it really liked it
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
Aug 08, 2014 Bee rated it liked it
'Motorcycles and Sweetgrass' is geared toward a younger audience with the occasional adult reference. It constantly feels scripted and at times choppy. The characters feel real some times and at others, very contrived, with the situations they are in often exaggerated. Still, this books touches on important events in Native life, and my favourite part would have to be where Drew includes his audience into his culture by sprinkling bits of the Anishnawbe language into the read. An easy enough rea ...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.

Roslyn Ricketts
Apr 18, 2015 Roslyn Ricketts rated it really liked it
I had to read this book in my program at my University and I actually really liked it. At first the story line was very confusing but after a few chapters I started to understand what was going on and I really enjoyed reading it. There was a little magic in it too and that helped hook me. I think if you can get through the first part towards where the story starts to make a lot more sense, you might get hooked too.
Golden Secondary School
Oct 21, 2014 Golden Secondary School rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This humorous and poignant novel tells the story of a young boy (13) coping with adolescence, his mother's busy life as a chief and the return of Nanabush(the trickster) to his small Anishinabe community. This story made me long for the Ontario wilderness and lakes.

Dec 24, 2011 Sabrina rated it it was ok
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
Pat Moed
Sep 21, 2015 Pat Moed rated it it was amazing
OMG....I love this book!!! It's sweet, funny, suspenseful, scary, informative, and a blast. I tried to read it as slowly as possible--every word was a pleasure. It makes me smile just to remember it. Nuff said :)
Apr 19, 2015 Lauri rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this book. Quirky, which I always like, and not the run of the mill novel. The characters are well done, I appreciated them all. An interesting, enjoyable read.
Mar 09, 2013 Lisa rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 31, 2015 Dorota rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really really enjoyed this one! Super fun reading on a rainy afternoon or two! And definitely had a few lines that had me laughing out loud too. Recommending this one for sure.
Carol Fillmore
Aug 17, 2015 Carol Fillmore rated it really liked it
Not a book I would have chosen. It was a bookclub selection. Enjoyed this vrry much. There's a scene involving raccoons is memorable:no raccoons were harmed though.
Neill Smith
Sep 02, 2013 Neill Smith rated it it was amazing
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
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UOIT FED Book Club: Motorcyles & Sweetgress 1 6 Jul 30, 2014 12:16PM  
  • Fifth Rule
  • Medicine River
  • Kiss of the Fur Queen
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  • Monkey Beach
  • The Way It Is
  • In Search of April Raintree
  • Death Benefits
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  • The Opposite of Tidy
  • Dead Water Zone
  • Monoceros
  • Natural Order
  • The Lesser Blessed: A Novel
  • Up Ghost River: A Chief's Journey Through the Turbulent Waters of Native History
  • The Taming
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
More about Drew Hayden Taylor...

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