Through Black Spruce
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Through Black Spruce

4.07 of 5 stars 4.07  ·  rating details  ·  5,438 ratings  ·  489 reviews

A haunting novel about identity, love, and loss by the author of Three Day Road

Will Bird is a legendary Cree bush pilot, now lying in a coma in a hospital in his hometown of Moose Factory, Ontario. His niece Annie Bird, beautiful and self-reliant, has returned from her own perilous journey to sit beside his bed. Broken in different ways, the two take silent communion in t

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Published March 19th 2009 by Penguin Group US (first published September 9th 2008)
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Bonnie
Update:
The CBA (Canadian Bestsellers Association) have handed out the 2009 Libris Awards. Joseph won Fiction of the Year for Through Black Spruce. He also won author of the year.

Joseph's skill in making the narrative ring true is remarkable: we learn Will’s story while he lies in a coma, and Annie’s, too, as she hopes that by “hearing” her story, her uncle will fight his way out of the coma. Marius Netmaker, grandson of Elijah, also has his strong role to play.

I read the short, first chapter tw...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
ETA, 12/22/12: Back one year later, thinking about the Attawapiskat First Nation. Its Chief, Theresa Spence, is heading into her 12th day of a hunger strike, an act of leadership and heroism that has coincided with the explosion of the #IdleNoMore movement. I'm urging all Canadians reading this to join in solidarity with our Aboriginal brothers and sisters in a call for dialogue, collaboration and action. Demand that PM Harper meet with Chief Theresa Spence to make meaningful, immediate progress...more
Jill
In Joseph Boyden’s mesmerizing and beautifully-rendered second novel – a follow-up to Three Day Road—former bush pilot Will Bird reflects, “Something’s there, through the black spruce, just on the other side. I can’t see it yet, though…”

The “something” is a strange place in the road: the place between traditional ways of life and modernity, between nature and the insidious effects of the drug culture, between life and death. There are two stories that are expertly interwoven here: the story of W...more
Friederike Knabe
History is front and centre of Joseph Boyden's second novel, "Through Black Spruce". Loosely a follow-up to his first, Three Day Road - the story of two young Cree trackers fighting in World War I - this story looks at history in a very personal, intimate way. Will and Annie Bird, the two narrative voices, are the son and granddaughter of Xavier Bird, one of the three central characters in the earlier book. Distinct in their approaches to their individual story, told in alternating chapters, the...more
Julia
This books tells an interesting & compelling story of the life of an aboriginal bush pilot in Northern Ontario. Family loyalty and kinship is thick as is the use of alcohol. The main character is implicated in the attempted murder of a man that has been stalking him. His nieces take off for N.Y.C. to earn money as models and find their own trouble there. Really a good read! One I would recommend!
Patrick
Powerful, well written, and a wonderful story. I think it helps having read Three Day Road first, for the back story and the understanding of Boyden's storytelling style. Had a hard time putting both books down; the stories flowed so well.
Sue Smith
I've had this book on my shelf for - oh about a year and a half. I knew it was good... I've had several people tell me so - gushing on and on - and all the reviews were very very positive. So I knew it was a book worth picking up.. but for some reason or another, I just never got around to it. Me, I got complacent. It was there.... it would wait.

Well - thank goodness for CBC book club on Goodreads! It became one of the first of the group's reads and now I had no excuse not to finally pick it up...more
Shirley Schwartz
This is the best book I've read all year!!
This book is a deserving winner of the prestigious Giller prize in 2008. I've been wanting to read it for some time, but wanted to read Boyden's first book "Three Day Road" first. As good as that book was, this one is even better. But it was good to read Three Day Road first as it is a precursor to this one and helped me understand the characters a bit more. Like Three Day Road, this book is so difficult to read in some ways because you keep waiting for...more
Malcolm
Book Review: Through Black Spruce
Viking Canada 2008 Giller Book Prize Winner
ISBN 978-0-670-06363-5

I love Joseph Boyden’s stories. Through Black Spruce is a triumph well deserving of the Giller prize recently awarded to him.
Some of the main characters in this book’s group of Cree people living in and around James Bay are descended from the main character, Xavier Bird - the main character from Boyden’s previous work, Three Day Road. A good part of this story concerns Will Bird, grandson of Xavie...more
Julie
"Moosonee. End of the road. End of the tracks," declares Will Bird, a Cree bush pilot lying broken in a hospital bed in this end of the tracks village in northern Ontario. He weaves his story silently, his voice imprisoned by his comatose state. Moosonee is remote, rugged, its Cree Nation inhabitants largely self-sufficient; it is also vulnerable. Poverty fuels drug and alcohol addiction. Those who do leave the community for the excitement and economic opportunity of Toronto or Montreal often fa...more
Hanusia Tkaczyk
Excellent. Gives insight into the persona experiences of our current First Nations people. He has a great turn of phrase and paints evocative images.
Linda
This is a perfect novel written by the writer who just won Canada Reads 2014 with his new novel, The Orenda. The Orenda is the third novel of a trilogy, and Through Black Spruce is the second, so I'm reading the trilogy backwards. As impressive as The Orenda is as a literary achievement, Through Black Spruce is a much more compelling and satisfying read. Now it's time to read the first book, Three-Day Road.

Joseph Boyden might well turn out to be another Michael Ondaatje or Margaret Atwood--a gre...more
Lianne
I am Canadian born and like to follow what Canadian writers are publishing.Traditionally, Canadian literature reflected the "Two Solitudes"of English and French Canadian culture. Since the 1970's an increasing number of authors of Indian, Chinese and other origins have explored the immigrant and exile experiences from a Canadian perspective.Joseph Boyden adds "the fourth pillar" to modern Canadian literature. His First Nations (Indian) ancestry sets a story in the far north of Ontario in Moosone...more
Karen
THROUGH BLACK SPRUCE isn't the first book it's taken me quite a long time to read, it's not even the one that took the longest to read, but it did take many attempts before I was able to get any traction. This attempt I read the blurb first-up and did a little Google hunting - something I normally try not to do. But this time I really needed it to find out what on earth was going on. Then it dawned on me why I was having so much trouble getting into the book.

THROUGH BLACK SPRUCE is a family stor...more
brianna
Although not as gripping as its predecessor, Through Black Spruce follows the Bird clan post-WWI into modern day. It is structured parallel to Three Day Road, with chapters alternating between two characters separated by an event, slowly unravelling stories and secrets from each narrative. Through Black Spruce was an enjoyable read, but it did leave some lose plot ends - the story arc involving Suzanne's disappearance seemed to be turning into a near-noir detective story, yet it did not deliver,...more
Rosana
It is impossible not to compare Through Black Spruce with Boyden’s earlier book, Three Day Road. And Through Black Spruce does fall short of the first one.

Boyden again writes with poetic prose, and has well-developed, complex characters. This story could be read as a sequel of the first – although it does stand alone – in an epic historical account of the aboriginal community in Canada through 4 generations, from the great-aunt Niska, a shaman woman in the beginning of the century and her nephe...more
Atalya
When I started to read 'Through Black Spruce' I was somewhat surprised, for two reasons: one is that I was struck by the understanding that I had never read a book about the people populating this book - native Indians of the North American continent - despite the great and outstanding potential inherent in the history of these fascinating people, and although they are occasionaly portrayed in television and film media. The second reason is that even in the summary on the back of the spine, the...more
Geetha
Through Black Spruce is a follow up to Joseph Boyden’s earlier book “The Three Day Road”. It won the Giller Prize in Canada. The characters in this book are descendants of the characters in the earlier book. Though I didn’t enjoy “Through Black Spruce” as much as I did “The Three Day Road” nevertheless it is a good book.
Once again in “Through Black Spruce” we see the effects of trauma the Native People of Canada have suffered following their treatment in the hands of the settlers to Canada. Ther...more
Ben
Through Black Spruce, winner of the 2008 Scotia Giller prize, is a novel about the lives of aboriginal Canadians in northern Ontario. If you're interested in how they survive in the bush by hunting moose, rabbits, beavers and geese, this is a novel for you.

However, I was disappointed to read about the culture of drugs, drinking and violence that still infects the growing up of aboriginal children and their fate.

In 2000 I'd read Monkey Beach, a novel by Eden Robinson, that also portrayed the...more
Deodand
As much as I like Three Day Road, I liked this one even more. I can't conceive of an author being so skilled at Boyden's relatively tender age. He's got the flow.

The flow is a piece of story-telling magic/literary technique where you slip into the story and the words don't even have a structure anymore - you are there, inside the world of the book. The pages slip by. It's been a little while since I read a book that flowed as smoothly as this one. I also loved reading thoughtful and interesting...more
Shannon
I read this as a stand alone and have not read Three Day Road yet. May have given 5 stars if I read the other first.

A double narrative that reads like oral tradition. Boyden's book brings to life two Cree tales that parallel each other and take us on a journey of self-discovery. We travel through black spruce to the city with Annie, and through black spruce to the edge of death as Will lies in his coma.

While we read about alcohol and drug addiction, biker gangs, muggings and rape, Boyden treats...more
Margarita
I liked this book from the very first lines: "When there was no Pepsi left for my rye whisky nieces, there was always ginger ale. No ginger ale? Then I had river water." I also like to drink rye with pepsi.

Anyway, this book is about a niece and an uncle and their two stories. The book is more or less them telling stories to each other, and sortof healing each other along the way. It is pretty gripping, since there are mysterious aspects to it - what happened to Will? Where is Suzanne? Both chara...more
Foxthyme
Joseph Boyden is the kind of writer who can bring characters to life so spectacularly it's as if you're reading about real people, about things that happened to them during the course of their lives. Boyden is a Canadian writer, so you get to hang out in some great Canadian wilderness in his novels.

His first novel,Three Day Road, is about two Cree soldiers serving in the First World War. In this second book, you have a son of one of those soldiers as one of the main characters in the book, the...more
Ali
I loved this book. The juxtaposition of bush life and city life was poignant yet never jarring. And insight into the lives of the Cree in northern Ontario was welcomed. I was so carried away by Will's foray into the bush to live traditionally and off the land that I began imagining how one summer I could do the same. While it's true that he is running from a terrible situation, the idea itself was extremely romantic to me. Annie Bird, Will's niece, is fierce, strong, inspiring and down to earth,...more
Vicky Bernard
Le récit est divisé entre deux narrateurs; Will, l'oncle de la famille, qui est dans le coma et raconte à ses nièces ses derniers mois; et Annie, sa nièce, qui lui raconte son séjour des derniers mois hors de la réserve (Toronto et New York), à la recherche de sa soeur Suzanne disparue avec un motard... Annie espère réveiller son oncle en lui parlant. On apprend ainsi des pans de leur vie respective.

Intéressant au début, en partie à cause de la touche "exotique" des personnages amérindiens, mai...more
GirlwiththeBraids
I think Through Black Spruce should start from scratch all over again and the author rewrite his story. Looking at the cover and reading the summary, you would have never guessed what was ahead: far too many curse words, sex scenes, and drug dealers. I read until the middle of the book at then put it down. I did not finish this book. Why would I if it makes me feel uncomfortable and sinful while I read it? I could not read one page without seeing something that didn’t need to be written or added...more
Doctordalek
I will buy every Joseph Boyden book that he releases. They are all *that good*. It is hard to put my finger on exactly why his writing is so mesmerizing. Here are some thoughts: the characters are generally all quite realistic, the stories are believable (and don't follow the traditional "hero falls in love, hero fights bad guy, bad guy almost wins, hero emerges victorious" format of so many other books), the use of multiple perspectives which alternate with each chapter... what else? I think th...more
Laila
I actually liked the characters in this book quite a bit and there was a sparse, sad tone throughout the book that I enjoyed. Only three stars because I thought it dragged some and the structure of the book (one character narrated by uncle, the next by niece, leaking out of details veeeeery slowly regarding the incident you knew happened from the beginning) struck me as sort of amateur-ish. But overall I liked it, especially in contrast to some of the dribble I have read recently.
Jen
I've been meaning to read this ever since I read Three Day Road, which I loved. This was excellent as well, but I didn't like it quite as much, probably since it didn't have that war setting that I tend to love so much.

This novel alternates between the perspectives of Will Bird, alcoholic and bush pilot, telling his story to his nieces Annie and Suzanne, and that of Annie, who is talking to Will while he lies in hospital in a coma. Eventually we learn what happened to put him there, and the way...more
Louise
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CBC Books: * 2008 - Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden 1 7 Aug 31, 2013 01:01PM  
THE LISTS: My 2nd Novel 9 12 Jan 14, 2012 01:45PM  
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  • Indian Horse
  • Clara Callan
  • Late Nights on Air
  • Monkey Beach
  • The Stone Carvers
  • The Time In Between
  • Mercy Among the Children
  • The Englishman's Boy
  • A Good House
  • The Colony of Unrequited Dreams
  • No Great Mischief
  • Nikolski
  • River Thieves
  • The Best Laid Plans
  • February
  • The Piano Man's Daughter
  • The Jade Peony
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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...
Three Day Road The Orenda Born with a Tooth Louis Riel and Gabriel Dumont: A Penguin Lives Biography Kikwaakew

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“When I die, nieces, I want to be cremated, my ashes taken up in a bush plane and sprinkled onto the people in town below. Let them think my body is snowflakes, sticking in their hair and on their shoulders like dandruff.” 10 likes
“There’s something sexy in cooking for a man who likes my food. Am I growing up?” 4 likes
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