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Through Black Spruce

4.12  ·  Rating Details ·  10,064 Ratings  ·  725 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

ebook, 368 pages
Published March 19th 2009 by Penguin Group US (first published September 9th 2008)
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Sep 09, 2016 Maxwell rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I loved this book. It was a beautifully written and contemplative novel about the lengths people will go to find ones they love and escape their past. It looks interestingly at themes of personal transformation, nature, and family ties. Boyden utilizes the dual narration excellently; both voices are clear and strong. If you're looking for a unique, refreshing story set in Canada, definitely give this a try.
A great tale of family resilience in remote Ontario settings balanced by narrative excursions to Toronto and New York City. It satisfied me by making me care deeply for its cast of characters, feel connected to their challenging rural environment, and empathize with the plight of Native peoples trying to sustain some identity in the larger society. Most of all I was impressed with the courage the key characters find to take action in the face of threats to their family.

We are treated to two narr
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
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
Dec 13, 2011 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Beata R
Mar 26, 2015 Beata R rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian
After the achievement that was "The Orenda," I found this one super disappointing. Orenda, published later, shows a huge leap in maturity for this author.

What I found highly grating about this book was the dialogue, which was embarrassingly artificial. The perspective of Annie was relentlessly two-dimensional, as was Boyden's portrayal of the model socialite life in New York. I realize that this milieu is notoriously superficial, but Boyden did nothing other than echo stereotypical dialogue of
helen the bookowl
This was a really good story that gives you a beautiful insight into life in Canada and Indians living this life. The story is told from two perspectives, and I liked how - in the beginning - you are very confused as to who are who and how the timeline goes between the two perspectives. I like it when the author confuses you voluntarily; as long as he gives you an answer in the end, which he did :)
What I appreciated the most about this book was its descriptions of Canadian nature. You could fee
This is like Marilynne Robinson lite: I recognized the combination of polish on trauma, the finely honed suffering. This is a little better than Housekeeping was, but it's still pretty meh. The prose isn't enough to generate interest on its own, and the plot reveals move along too slowly for real interest in that department, so readers must content themselves with having learned some kind of lesson, about difference and identity and suffering and life and experience and how the badness makes it ...more
Diane Barnes
Sep 20, 2014 Diane Barnes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: book-club-2014
This is one of those books I would probably never have picked up were it not this month's selection of my bookclub, despite the fact that I have another of Boyden's books on my shelf, (Three Day Road), which I have not read yet. It is apparently a prequel, taking place in WWI with the father of Will, a main character in this one. Through Black Spruce takes place in present day in James Bay, Ottowa. The story is told in 2 voices: Will, who lies in a coma in the hospital, and his niece, Annie, who ...more
Friederike Knabe
Sep 11, 2013 Friederike Knabe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: canadian-lit
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
Nov 10, 2014 Shane rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I guess nothing untoward can be said about Joseph Boyden, our true native son who has achieved literary god status in the last few years. I read other reviews in this forum before writing this one and the platitudes for this book are glowing. And yet we need to ask the tough questions, despite people’s origins and sensibilities, if we are to mine gems from amidst the oceans of literary flotsam out today. What follows is therefore one reader’s opinion, mine, and many may not agree with me.

First o
Feb 07, 2009 Patrick rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Elli (The Bibliophile)

This is the third Joseph Boyden book I've read before and, as always, I really enjoyed his writing. His style is very clear, but also detailed. I also found the pacing of this novel to be good- if I hadn't been busy this week I probably would have finished it much sooner. I've heard others found this to be slow read, but for me it wasn't. The dual narrative I find makes for a more page turning read, as you keep jumping from Will's to Annie's narrative and back again. I also really liked how this
Sue Smith
Apr 25, 2011 Sue Smith rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
"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
Mar 25, 2016 Cher rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: cultural
3 stars - It was good.

While it is a worthy read, it was also a disappointment after first reading The Orenda, as this one was not nearly as compelling or polished.

I really enjoyed the Native American/First Nations cultural references, but could have done without the whole perspective of Annie and the drama around her, her sister and their modeling world. It would have been a stronger novel, even if cut in half page wise, if it had strictly dealt with the Uncle and his inner circle.
Mar 22, 2015 Myriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Maybe even 4.5 stars.
Through Black Spruce is a beautifully written, atmospheric novel that unfolds a little like a mystery novel. Even though it deals with violence and drugs, it is beautiful throughout and it rises above its dark themes to tell stories of resilience and about family and the human spirit.
It also gets points for its exploration of a current Native Canadian way of life, its difficulties as well as its beauty.
Why not five stars? The dual perspective narration was really well done,
God I loved this book. I didn't realize it was a sort of sequel to Three Day Road featuring children and grandchildren of those characters. It can certainly be read as a standalone but it was nice to occasionally touch these characters memories of Xavier Bird. Wonderful writing and beautifully honest characters.
Dec 04, 2008 Julia rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
This author writes beautifully and not just within the natural world descriptions and locale feel. I especially liked how he encompassed you within the hospital room with Annie as she tale her story to her comatose uncle. It's fully a 3.5 star and makes me want to prepare for winter coats and make sure the boots are in sturdy order. I would have enjoyed it far more if the pilot told us more and the dysfunctional sisters told us less. It's me, not the book most probably. Because for the most part ...more
از میان صنوبرهای سیاه دومین جلد از سهگانه برد (Bird Trilogy) است. نام این سهگانه از نام خانوادگی «زاویر برد» شخصیت اصلی رمان اول «جاده سهروزه» گرفته شده است. این کتاب به صورت مستقل از جلد اول عمل می کنه. داستان در موسونی اونتاریو اتفاق می افته. این بار راوی ویل برد ( پسر زاویر ) و خواهرزاده اش آنی برد که به صورت تک گویی و در فصل های جداگانه ادامه پیدا می کنه. این اثر هم مانند رمان اول درونمایهای از زندگی سرخپوستان کانادا دارد، با این تفاوت که داستان از فضای جنگ جهانی دور شده و حالا نبردی دیگر پی ...more
Aug 05, 2016 Mark rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: audiobooks
“Mother Nature was one angry slut. She'd try and kill you the first chance she got. You'd screwed with her for so long that she was happy to eliminate you.”

Will bird is a Cree bush pilot. The novel opens with him, lying in a coma. Annie Bird is his niece, who visits him in the hospital. How these two people ended up here, is how the story is structured, as the narrative shifts from Will to Annie. I much preferred the Will part of the tale, with his laconic, Cree wisdom and stunning descriptions
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
Dec 29, 2008 Malcolm rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Aug 29, 2016 Graham rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book is flippin' fantastic. I finally put it down knowing that I will think of the characters often.
I feel fortunate to have been introduced to Boyden with Orenda (set in the 17th Century), moving to Three Day Road (set in World War I) and now Through Black Spruce (set Today-ish). The chronology has added to the experience for me.
It's important to acknowledge the impact Boyden's writing continues to have on my understanding of First Nations in Canada. I have become more engaged and empathet
Garlan ✌
This one was a tough book to rate; the writing is very good, and I cared about the characters, but the story is pretty bleak. There's a lot of alchoholism and poverty, a bleak and cold landscape, and plenty of violence to go around. I really liked Will and Annie's characters, and the story was entirely believable. This is a firm 3 1/2 star book, but I just can't seem to give it 4*. Winner of Canada's Giller Award for best book.

After a long time away from the book, I decided that it merited a hig
Nadine Hiemstra
Aug 04, 2016 Nadine Hiemstra rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: gen-fiction
While this isn't my favourite of Boyden's books that I've read, I continue to be floored by the quality of his writing and depth of his characters. Even though I wasn't completely drawn in by the plot (a series of challenges faced by the characters on their search for answers and a measure of peace) it was a pleasure to read from start to finish.
Leslie Shimotakahara
I was reading this novel while on vacation in Spain - absolutely loved it! I was particularly impressed by how different the two narrators' voices are. It made me reflect on my own desire to write from more diverse perspectives.... My full review can be read at
Aug 24, 2015 Dalia rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Honestly, I love Joseph Boyden, but this novel was a disappointment, especially after reading the literary gift that is his first novel, Three Day Road. This story just falls flat, and while the writing is strong enough to pick up some of the slack, it's not enough to get by. Of the two narrators, Will Bird certainly holds the stronger voice, and I would say is the more intriguing of the two. I felt entirely uninvested in Annie's story; while she's not a weak character on her own, the way her st ...more
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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 about Joseph Boyden...

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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.” 18 likes
“Mother Nature was one angry slut. She'd try and kill you the first chance she got. You'd screwed with her for so long that she was happy to eliminate you.” 6 likes
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