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Motorcycles & Sweetgrass

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  533 ratings  ·  74 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
Monkey Beach by Eden RobinsonThree Day Road by Joseph BoydenThrough Black Spruce by Joseph BoydenThe Orenda by Joseph BoydenGreen Grass, Running Water by Thomas King
Best Canadian Aboriginal Fiction
6th out of 36 books — 21 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,045)
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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
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
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
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,
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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,
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
'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
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
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.

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
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.
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
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
All A Bit Ood
This was one of the best books I've read so far this year. Aside from the serious beginning, the writing had an amused tone that reminds me of Terry Pratchett in Discworld, or Ben Aaronovitch (sp?) in his Peter Grant series ( although the book itself is quite different from either of these). Switching between character perspectives was smooth and the characters were lovable and easy to become invested in. I especially liked Virgil.

I'm not sure what the point of the racoons were or why they feat
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.
A perfect piece of Canadiana.

"There are no such things as dead ends. Only people who find dead ends."
Paige Gustafson
I absolutely enjoyed reading this!
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..
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UOIT FED Book Club: Motorcyles & Sweetgress 1 6 Jul 30, 2014 12:16PM  
  • The Fifth Rule
  • Medicine River
  • Kiss of the Fur Queen
  • Monkey Beach
  • The Way It Is
  • In Search of April Raintree
  • Indian Horse
  • The Opposite of Tidy
  • This Cake Is for the Party: Stories
  • Monoceros
  • Dead Water Zone
  • Death Benefits
  • Natural Order
  • The Taming
  • Fatty Legs
  • Cool Water
  • One Bird's Choice: A Year in the Life of an Overeducated, Underemployed Twenty-Something Who Moves Back Home
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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