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Three Day Road

4.29 of 5 stars 4.29  ·  rating details  ·  9,428 ratings  ·  899 reviews
Inspired in part by real-life World War I Ojibwa hero Francis Pegahmagabow, this unblinking, impeccably researched novel is the astonishing story of two Cree snipers in the killing fields of Ypres and the Somme, and the winding journey home to northern Ontario that only one of them will make. A remarkable tale of brutality, survival, and rebirth, Three Day Road is an unfor...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 10th 2006 by Penguin Canada (first published 2005)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Sep 02, 2008 Ruzz rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone who can read.
Shelves: 2008
I found Three Day Road when a notoriously late friend was more than an hour late to meet me and I had time to browse a local bookstore. I didn't pick the book up that day, but i noted it.

Later, while near the bookstore I went back in and grabbed it. The idea of the book crossed a number of vectors of interest for me. War history (wait, don't stop reading yet), snipers (please, keep reading), and early 20th century Natives.

I expected it to at least titillate my love of snipers, and war and the...more
5 stars

I'm not sure I've read any other books inspired by the First World War, but I am sure Joseph's story is different than anything else ever written.

Agreed, I was slow to get TO it (heard him read first chapter in Whistler 2007), and to really get into it, but oh -- when I did, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

I read this, for the most part, on the beach while vacationing in Mexico. I couldn't help but react out loud: his battle scenes, e.g., are so vivid, chilling. But saying that sim...more
Jul 16, 2012 Malcolm rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Book Review: Three Day Road
Joseph Boyden
Viking Canada Penguin 2005
ISBN 0-670-06362-2
Once in a long while one reads a book that you cannot put down and the overall beauty of it leaves one gasping. Three Day Road, is such a book. It tells the story of Two Cree young men who find themselves in WW I fighting in the trenches of France as snipers using their hunting and shooting skills they learned in the bush growing up near James Bay.

The story begins with the protagonist, Xavier Bird, has retur...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
This is two of my favourite reads: a "futility-of-war" novel by a Native Canadian writer, and with a unique Native Canadian angle.

Xavier and Elijah are Ojibwe-Cree from "the North Country" (which in this case means James Bay area) who sign up for WW I, and - because of their hunting prowess - make for excellent warriors. Niska - X's auntie - welcomes a deeply changed X home, and does what she can to help X cope with all he has seen, suffered and lost.

The novel is about killing and healing and in...more
Jul 20, 2009 Rosana rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Rosana by: book club pick by Georgina
I love this book. It is definitely in the pack of books I would carry with me from a burning building. I read it 2 years ago or so, and recently browsed through it again for a book club discussion. I feel surprised with myself that a book with so many graphic descriptions of battles and death does not however make me put it on the list of books never to reread. For all the sadness and destruction it describes, still it does not leave me downhearted. I guess I see the characters' struggles as an...more
I love Erdrich's blurb for the book: "a devastatingly truthful work of fiction, and a masterful account of hell and healing. This is a grave, grand, and passionate book." This is the story of a three-day canoe journey home for Cree Indian Xavier Bird, who arrives by train in northern Ontario severely damaged from his experience as an infantry soldier in World War 1. He has lost a leg and is addicted to morphine. He is accompanied by his only family member, his aunt Niska, a medicine woman who ra...more
This book is loosely based on the famed Native Canadian WW1 sniper Francis Pegahmagabow. It is about WW1 trench warfare; it is about the role Native Canadians played in this warfare and it is about mystical Cree beliefs. I think this book goes a step deeper. It is about warfare in general and also about taking another person’s life outside of the war setting. I am left very troubled by the ending. I have more questions after reading this book than before. Am I a pacifist? Am I against all wars?...more
I learned much from this book. I learned about trench warfare, the primary method of fighting in World War One. I learned about the Native American bush Indians of Canada and the hardships and racism that they survived. I learned that the white americans admired their hunting and tracking skills and transformed these individuals from hunters of animals into hunters of men during the war and the toll on their spirit that this transformation wrought.
I learned that every war through history has cre...more
Friederike Knabe
Linking Cree hunting stories with World War I frontline accounts would seem an odd undertaking, to say the least. The wild Canadian North with its harsh yet beautiful landscape and tough living conditions for those surviving off the land is a far cry - physically and spiritually - from the trenches and the killing fields of Ypres and the Somme. Yet, Boyden has successfully merged these seemingly disparate themes through his telling of the life stories of the three protagonists: Xavier, Elijah an...more
This is an exceptional book, although harrowing - I'm not sure I could say I enjoyed it; my feeling is closer to respect, and admiration, for what the author achieved.

Three Day Road is the story of two young Cree men who volunteer for service in WWI. Only one returns - Xavier - and the novel follows his progress as he travels back downriver, with his aunt, to his home. He's broken, physically and mentally, by the war, is addicted to morphine, and as he slips back into the past and relates the st...more
Joyce Lagow
War is ugly and always has been; people die and usually gruesomely. But there seems to be a general consensus that the most horror-filled war was The Great War, The War to End All Wars--World War I. Not before or since have armies been mired down in trenches, where it was possible to die from drowning in mud, never mind from bullets or artillery. Being static--unable to move, to have at least the illusion of dodging incoming artillery--did something to the psyches of the soldiers who fought in t...more
Xavier Bird, a young Ojibwa from the Moose Cree tribe in northern Ontario, returns to Canada from the Europe's Western Front in the summer of 1919. He is alone, in unimaginable pain from an amputated leg, addicted to morphine, and dying from a spirit broken by the nightmare of war.

Carrying him home in her dugout canoe is his aunt Niska, an elderly medicine woman who has lived on her own in the bush since escaping a Catholic boarding school in her teens. Through a twisting, dreamlike journey of...more
I first heard about this book a couple years ago on the Today show. At first it was hard to take a Today show book club selection seriously, but then I decided to listen to what the star author had to say about the book. Isabel Allende introduced Three Day Road, and her enthusiasm for the story really intrigued me. She writes in a completely different genre (magical realism) from what she decribed this book to be (WWI historical fiction), so I thought I should give it a shot. And I decided to wa...more
Lorina Stephens
An astonishing novel. An even more astonishing first novel. There can be no disputing Joseph Boyden is not only an accomplished story-teller, but a significant Canadian voice in the 21st century.

Three Day Road, drawn from real people and real history, is an impeccably researched, and skilfully wrought tale of two Cree soldiers who fight in the nightmare of WWI. It is a story about the terror of residential schools, the descent into madness, and the arduous journey back to peace of mind and body....more
An astonishing book. Powerful, beautiful and compelling, this is a harrowing tale of almost relentless emotional horror and hardship sprinkled with delicate scenes of heartbreaking beauty. It would be hard to say that I 'enjoyed' this book, but I truly was utterly absorbed by it. In an intense three-day obsession I read it on the bus (missing my stop), at work (extending my lunch break) and curled in a corner at home. Even in public I was unable to hide my frequent tears.

Boyden's writing is as...more
Shirley Schwartz
This book is so powerful and gripping and so very real that it is difficult to read it. Boyden takes us right into the French and Belgian trenches during the First World War. We are there and we experience the fear and the agony of this terrible war. The story is really about two young Indian boys who are friends and who enlist and go to the War together. The war changes these young Canadian boys. One (Elijah) becomes a warrior and goes hunting at night. The more Germans that he kills the darker...more
Still reeling from the emotional whirlwind of the last couple of chapters. Wow.
Loved that I learned about new aspects of WWI (new to me, that is) and Native Canadian culture. I was actually told to read Through Black Spruce before I stumbled on this one--JB's first novel--and I'm so glad that I did.
Literature at its finest! Take a bow Mr. Boyden.
Elizabeth (Alaska)
This is another aspect of The Great War. This time they are snipers who bring the war down to a soldier fighting as a single unit, rather than as a soldier fighting as part of a large group. I have seen this compared to All Quiet on the Western Front and to Birdsong. Each of these is different and yet tell part of the story of that awful time in such a way that the reader can understand.

This is told in the first person by Xavier Bird and also by his aunt, Niska. Both are Cree Indians, and this...more
This was an odd mixture of two Cree Indian youths and the fighting in World War I. These two elements worked very well together. The novel was very effective and touching, even frightening in the evocative realistic war scenes. Two Cree Indian young men from North Ontario, enlist in the Canadian Army in World War I and fight in France, most notably at Vimy Ridge. The two youths in the novel become sniper and scout. They have always hunted together since boyhood. One, Xavier, loses a leg and is i...more

Boyden is a beautiful writer - for me, this book had a dreamlike, fluid quality in telling the story of a Cree Indian from Northern Canada who becomes a revered sniper in WWI, despite the explicit brutal and violent subject matter that much of the book deals with. He paints a vivid portrait of the richness of the traditional way of Cree life, the encroachment of industrialization and the white man on their territory and lifestyle, and the juxtaposition of that with trench warfare in WW...more
A fabulous novel! Joseph Boyden has another fan. I read THREE DAY ROAD as a book club selection and even before finishing it, added two more of his novels to my 2014, 'to-read' list. There are so many themes and interesting elements to explore in this book: its historical detail and relevance, the nature and myth of warfare, First Nations rights and abuses, narrative structure, pacing, language. I was most intrigued by the multiple layers and functions of storytelling. Each tale within the narra...more
This is an important book in Native Canadian history. Loosely based on the real-life WWI Ojibwa hero Francis Pegahmagabow, it is the story of two Cree friends from Northern Ontario who are snipers in the trenches of France.

The characters of this story rose from the page like ghosts from the grave, nameless faceless soldiers storming over the trenches and though the mud as they push back the Germans. As I read this book, I couldn't help but think of my grandfather who fought at Vimy Ridge and of...more
I read Boydens "Through Black Spruce" before I read this book and I loved it so my expectations were high. Well, if anything my expectations were surpassed. I love being placed into the mind of someone that comes from an entirely different culture (and in this case, period), but it is a rare privilege to encounter writing and character development of such quality that I feel literally transported by the experience of reading. Boydens has done this with both of his works. As I have said in my rev...more
This was not an easy read... Mostly it is my fault. I do not like wars, I do not agree with them, I feel wars are pictured to be glamorous so all those poor souls who are tricked or forced into participating could feel good about themselves and wouldn't have to feel fooled. And I somehow read too many war related books recently, so to me, the parts of this story describing the details of the war were not interesting, but I can see how they must be for others..

I did enjoy everything about the Cre...more
A friend recommended this book and lent me her copy.If I had seen it in a bookshop I would never have picked it up because the cover and typeface(on my edition)suggests a romantic novel.The story follows Niska a cree medicine woman who lives in the Bush,bringing her injured morphine addicted nephew back home after world war I.This book I found very moving and horrific in its descriptions of the trenches and the young men who went to war and came back ghosts of their former selves.The description...more
This book is about a Cree boy who is raised by his Auntie in the wilderness and taught to live off the land. He develops a close friendship with another Cree boy. When they are of age, the two of them enlist and become snipers in the killing fields of Ypres in WWI. This is a brutal yet beautifully well told story. This captures so much - the brutality of war, the beauty of the wilderness, the Native American life and so much more that I am not eloquent enough to capture. AMAZING writing and this...more
Absorbing story of two Cree Canadian friends who learn the wild as boys and then become snipers for the Canadian Army in WWI. Interspersed with flashbacks from an aunt who helps one of them on his Three Day Road, the time it takes to die. Boyden's strength is in his storytelling, as opposed to, say, character or language. Excellent descriptions of war. Important, as it offers a needed slice of the role of Native Canadians in military history. This is an author I will read again.
Aug 27, 2008 Lesley rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Emma
This is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. It is about 2 Native Canadians boys that go off to fight in the 1st World War and are trained as snipers. The desriptions of the battlefields in Europe are horrifying but the friendship of the young men sustains them. It is beautifully written
Joey Dhaumya
This book is beautiful and powerful. Every time I think about Three Day Road I feel the force of its sublime aesthetics. Written by Joseph Boyden, who is part Cree himself, the story is about the war time experiences of two young Cree men - Xavier and Elijah. It is also a poignant struggle about preserving a way of living, as seen through the character of Niska (Xavier's aunt). The narrative style is what is called a "first person multiple"; where the first person narrative changes every few cha...more
I've been consciously expanding my horizons in the last few years by trying out new authors. Occasionally I consider giving up this exploration when I hit a few clunkers in a row. But finding my way to a novelist like Joseph Boyden makes it worthwhile.

If you like novelists who construct layers in their novels and challenge you to explore them, you'll likely want to put "Three Day Road" on your list. It tackles several universal themes including friendship, conflict of cultures, pride and loss of...more
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Needing to talk about this book 24 123 Oct 27, 2013 05:18PM  
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Joseph Boyden is a Canadian novelist and short story writer.

He grew up in Willowdale, North York, Ontario and attended the Jesuit-run Brebeuf College School. Boyden's father Raymond Wilfrid Boyden was a medical officer renowned for his bravery, who was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and was the highest-decorated medical officer of World War II.

Boyden, of Irish, Scottish and Métis heritage...more
More about Joseph Boyden...
Through Black Spruce The Orenda Born with a Tooth Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont: A Penguin Lives Biography Kikwaakew

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“This memory, this pretty little stone, I examine it with my eyes closed tight. Turn it over in my fingers.” 5 likes
“In school, it got so that Elijah learned to talk his way out of anything, gave great long speeches so that his words snaked themselves like vines around the nuns until they could no longer move, [...].” 2 likes
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