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Through Black Spruce

4.1 of 5 stars 4.10  ·  rating details  ·  8,122 ratings  ·  622 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

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ebook, 368 pages
Published March 19th 2009 by Penguin Group US (first published September 9th 2008)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Michael
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
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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
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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
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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
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Diane Barnes
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
Beata R
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
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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
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
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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
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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
Shane
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
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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
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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!
Jeanette
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
Farzane
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
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.
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
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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
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Myriam
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,
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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
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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 www.the-reading-list.com
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
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Kevan
Such a beautiful book. I read it aloud to my wife, my voice trying to find fitting versions for the two narrators: one, a slow, reflective, funny old Native man retelling his life of plane crashes and exploits in Northern Ontario town of Moosonee; the other, his niece, carrying on traditions of trapping when she's not undertaking a career in modelling, while she searches for her sister in the big city. It's a thoughtful, immersive, experiential drama, unfolding slowly but confidently, until the ...more
Tasha
My second 5 star read from Joseph Boyden. I read The Orenda earlier this summer and fell in love with this guy's writing style. This guy can write, really well. I enjoyed the Orenda more but this one was still so very good. Don't expect a lot of action as the chapters alternate between two narrators telling their stories to one another but do expect to get drawn into their stories. At least I did. It seems I'm reading this 'trilogy' backwards but I'm planning on reading Three Day Road next. I ca ...more
Anita
This is the story of Will Bird, a Cree bush pilot, and his niece Annie, both brought up in the wilderness of Northern Ontario.
Will, survivor of three almost fatal plane crashes, lies in a coma after a long-term family feud leaves him close to death. Annie, returned from her own wild journey, goes to visit him every night. She talks to him, telling him her story, endeavouring to break through to his unconscious and re-connect him with the world. She is a reluctant healer, gifted with special pow
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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
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Toni Osborne
The novel is a follow up to Mr. Boyden’s award winning novel “Three Days Road”, recounting the histories and lives of two fictional James Bay Cree families (The Birds and the Whiskeyjacks).

This latest novel centers on Will Bird, son of Xavier Bird, the heroic soldier we were introduced to previously. The story comes to live through two intertwined monologues. We follow Will’s thoughts while he recovers from a serious plane crash, a near death encounter that has left him comatose in a hospital be
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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
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CBC Books: This topic has been closed to new comments. * 2008 - Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden 1 11 Aug 31, 2013 01:01PM  
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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
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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.” 13 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.” 4 likes
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