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3.68  ·  Rating details ·  4,296 ratings  ·  546 reviews
Monkey Beach meets Green Grass, Running Water meets The Beachcombers in this wise and funny novel by a debut Cree author

Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following trage
Hardcover, 288 pages
Published May 26th 2015 by HarperCollins Publishers
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Ginny I would say advanced teen, depending on the teen. There are depictions of sexual assault and child abuse in the book, but much of it is implied rather…moreI would say advanced teen, depending on the teen. There are depictions of sexual assault and child abuse in the book, but much of it is implied rather than overtly stated. Overall the narrative's shifting tenses and metaphors may be confusing but there will be adults who read the book who find it confusing and a confident teen reader would be able to understand the narrative. The book is a good jumping off point for talking about racism against Natives in Canada; there are many references to acts of quiet racism that require a sensitivity or background awareness of racial dynamics that may require discussion and reading beyond the reader's regular circle.

I think it's also worth noting that in my edition (2016 paperback, CBC Canada Reads emblem on the front) there is an author interview at the back during which Lindberg states:

"I hope some big buffalo of a gal in some small town (perhaps Northern) pulls this book off a shelf when she is too young to see it. This is the book I wish I had found. Tell someone. Tell anyone. You have it inside you to be good, be well, and get better."

So Lindberg herself acknowledges the book is potentially too adult for younger readers, but the events in the childhood and adolescence of her characters shape the book. I think for the right teen reader the book is relatable and accessible.(less)
cait I think it was nominated to help boost marginalized voices, but I wasn't a fan of this particular story either.…moreI think it was nominated to help boost marginalized voices, but I wasn't a fan of this particular story either.(less)

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Average rating 3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  4,296 ratings  ·  546 reviews

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Matthew Quann
Jan 19, 2016 rated it did not like it

I don't really know how to start this review, so I'll just be upfront: I don't know what to make of Birdie. Let me break it down for you in a top five why-I-didn't-like-it list.

1. The first 100 pages were nigh-indecipherable.
The twist at the back end of these 100 pages had my interest piqued, but I never felt as if the opening was justified. Yeah, there ends up being a fairly decent narrative reason for making the passages shift so freely through time and situation, b
Jul 14, 2015 rated it it was amazing
No one ever talked about a lot of things. What happened to Freda's mom. Why Freda lived with everyone at one time or another. Why Maggie stopped talking to anyone. When the electricity would come back on. Why no one stayed with the uncles. The silence about what was happening around them seeped into the kitchen, first. Permeating the curtains. Eating into the linoleum. Eventually settling in the fridge. It was like some sort of bad medicine – it made Freda skinny, Bernice fat, and Maggie disa
Sep 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
That was a beautiful read. I do believe that's the first time I ever described a reading experience as beautiful. And to think, I only bought this book because I loved the cover.

I only gave it 4 stars because it was *a lot* to take in. I haven't decided if it was actually too much or if life is just too busy at the moment for me to take in anything more than mindless reading. But I want to read this book again.

I'm pretty sure this is the first time I've read about Indigenous people and really
How to rate this book? How to rate a piece of abstract art? How to rate poetry that is like nothing else you've ever encountered?

It was only in the last quarter that I decided to give this book at 4* rating. I struggled with the first half or more, both with the tragic story itself, and with the writing style, which is so unique, so artistic. I was going to rate it 3* because the answer to my question "would I recommend this to anyone?" was a resounding "no."

But then something incredible happene
Leanne Simpson
Mar 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Coming in May!

A stunning debut novel, grounded in the sheer beauty of Cree poetics, love, and a benevolence few of us are lucky enough to know. The brilliance of Indigenous women dances off each page—this story is our story, so carefully woven together into a tapestry that is the spine of our collective beings. I see myself, my family and my life in every sentence. This is the novel Canada has been waiting for.
i cannot guarantee i am going to make a lot of sense here as i work through my thoughts on this novel, so preemptive apologies if you've found yourself here on this review. :)

birdie landed on my radar last year, i kept hearing great things about this debut novel from the incredibly impressive and accomplished tracey lindberg. it was then chosen as a contender for the 2016 edition of canada reads. because of that, the book got bumped up my TBR list. also because of canada reads, the theme of 'sta
Andrea McDowell
Birdie is a gut-punch of a book.

But it's a hard one to talk about, given the history of indigenous peoples in Canada, and our current political fixation on the plight of native women. (Please note that any criticism here is directed to the fetishization of one cause at a time. The plight is real and serious and deserves to be dealt with, not just in 2015 and 2016 because it became momentarily trendy among progressives, but all the time, until it's solved.)

So what this isn't, is an Issue novel. O
Jason Avramenko
Mar 09, 2016 rated it did not like it
As an English teacher and someone who reads Canadian literature often, I was disappointed with this selection. I picked it up because it is being featured on Canada Reads in March, under the theme of 'Starting Over.' Unfortunately, this theme was not part of my experience with the book.
Without ruining this for anyone, the ending does not provide our protagonist with any release...nothing is resolved, and the people that she most relies on to 'help her recover/heal' are some of the same people w
Aug 02, 2017 rated it really liked it
Once I stopped trying to fit this story into a linear timeline, something magic happened. Something clicked, and it was beautiful. I wept as I finished the book, it has been awhile since this happened. I am genuinely grateful to the author for writing this book.
Jun 23, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: symposium-2016
A very big book. A book that requires slow reading and re-reading. A book that forces your imagination to use its peripheral vision.
Okay, here's the thing: I..........did not understand this book.

It's told in a very non-linear fashion. There are some magical realism elements involved, as the main character effectively spends the duration of the book on a dreamquest. It deals with some incredibly difficult topics, including sexual abuse of children, homelessness and alcohol abuse in Indigenous communities, rape, and the disappearance of Indigenous women in Canada. So it's not exactly a light and easy ready.

The blurb claimed
As an audio-book, I had to replay the first few tracks constantly because I couldn't figure out what was going on! Initially, I was excited to read this book based on the summary which said "... funny novel" (it's definitely not!), but if it weren't for the summary printed on the CD case, I would have been totally lost! With that, and getting past the first two CDs, the story finally began making sense to me. It's a powerful narrative of neglect, incest, abuse and mental illness. The plight of C ...more
Andrea MacPherson
Jul 06, 2015 rated it liked it
I really enjoyed the risks Lindberg took with the narrative, and was invested in the stories of Birdie, Maggie, Skinny Freda, Val, and Lola. Parts of the book were very dark--Lindberg was not afraid to tackle violence and abuse--but these elements were integral to the narrative.

However, some of these same risks made the story a bit inconsistent and unwieldy. The alternate perspectives of Maggie, Freda, Val, and Lola came late in the story, and would have been beneficial earlier. I found their s
Feb 18, 2016 rated it did not like it
I know I'm supposed to love the Canada Reads books as epic-Canadian-classics-in-the-making, but I have to say strongly disliked this one. The dream-like quality the author was attempting was muddy and much of the discussion of important current issues in First Native communities, and the important and beautiful symbolism was lost in the use of multiple narrators, multiple time settings and the conscious/unconscious state of the protagonist.

An important subject. But the methodology meant the mean
This book is very relevant because it deals with the issue of missing indigenous women in Canada.
My rating of three stars is based purely on how much I "enjoyed" it.
I didn't really. It is written in a stream of consciousness writing style which I had a hard time with. Were it not for the cover description and certain reviews I read, I would have had a hard time understanding what was happening. The subject matter is a lot to take in. Birdie, a Cree woman from Northern Alberta, travels to Gibson
Jul 20, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction, canadian
I’m not sure how to rate this book. I started it then put it down, the started it again. It took time to trudge through. It was interesting. It is very well written... but in an unusual way... It was at times difficult to read and difficult to understand.
It is not written in a typical linear format. It jumps in time and topic. Actually it “shifts” .
But it is interesting because it encompasses indigenous culture yet it includes global themes of love and relationships, struggles, family, hardshi
Jennifer (aka EM)
An unequivocal five stars. This book is fantastic and will take its place among my favourite Indigenous reads - and my favourite overall reads. Birdie is an extraordinary character, and the way Lindberg tells her story is, quite simply, incredible. She weaves together memory and myth; the natural world and the "supernatural"; Indigenous, intergenerational and personal trauma; contemporary cultural landmarks (The Beachcombers!) with traditional ceremony.

And omg Birdie. Brutalized, tormented, aba
Fiona Williams
Mar 04, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I finished this book a week or so ago and then listened to all the Canada Reads episodes. Although I LOVED The Illegal and think Lawrence Hill is a master MASTER of the written word, I was very disappointed this book did not win as I think it is the book every Canadian needs to read. I was very disappointed with the comments made about the book on Canada Reads, especially by Farah Mohamed who was critical of the first 100 pages being hard to follow. The first 100 pages are challenging but they a ...more
David Ball
May 17, 2017 rated it it was ok
Two stars may be unkind, but I didn't like Birdie much. One has to be careful when giving a poor rating as it is easy to mistake a poorly written book with a well written book about a subject matter that either holds no interest or is not appreciated. In my opinion, this book has flaws with both style and content. Stylistically, I can't stand reading about other people's dreams or out-of-body experiences. And the constant shifting of time between past and present made the story hard to engage in ...more
Feb 27, 2016 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
I found this novel very difficult to read. Right from the beginning I could not catch the thread of what the story was about. By reading to the end of the novel I now understand the seriousness of the subject matter and I sympathize with the horror of experiences so difficult that one must go to extremes to cleanse oneself of such horrible memories. However, the way the novel is structured makes it one of the most difficult reads I have come across in a longtime. I wish I was in a bookclub where ...more
Dec 12, 2017 rated it liked it
I had a hard time with this book. It's emotional and heartbreaking. It's disjointed and hard to follow. Time isn't linear, there are dreamscapes, memories, real-time. It all blends together.
The stories of Birdie, Val, Maggie, Lola and Freda are sad at times but show such resilience and strength. It's the strength these women show that shines through.
I listened to the audio and am not sure if that lead to the feeling of disjointedness and detachment I felt. The subject matters of abuse, homeles
Nov 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book is a wonderful portrayal of the strength of women and the families they create to support one another. It's also a brilliant look at the life of an individual indigenous person and the community to which she belongs. The writing style was challenging for me, but also very rewarding. It was a lovely use of native language and storytelling that really made the story come alive. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. ...more
Feb 26, 2017 rated it it was ok
What the heck did I just read?! Wanted to like this book but was just confused through most of it. I found myself hoping the end was coming soon. I like to finish a book once I start it but this one was painful for me. I think Bernice is a great character but the actual story was just too "all over the place" for me. Situations were confusing, identifying what was present and what was past was difficult and I had a problem figuring out who was who Freda/Lola/Val until the last few chapters. ...more
Jan 02, 2016 rated it really liked it
Unlike anything else I've ever read--I hope this makes it to the Canada Reads short list for its originality if nothing else. It's about time Canada started dealing with some of its secrets.
Jan 02, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Beautiful, soulful, heart-breaking and ultimately hope-filled. I loved it.
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
"The reason that I wrote this novel, rather than write it as an academic article is that I’ve seen, along the way, it’s really quite easy to make decisions in law about indigenous people as a category. It’s really easy to lecture about indigenous peoples if it’s a topic...So what I hope that the book does — that good stuff — is to humanize us, humanize indigenous woman, indigenous girls, so that, in a way, we’re thought of as relatives. Because you care about your relatives. You don’t let your r ...more
Aleks Licornis
Jul 26, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Still processing what I’ve just read. This is a moving and challenging read. Mental and cognitive capacities need to be dedicated to this read at all times.

Bernice is a “Halfbreed” Cree woman who has seen horrifying things in her life; she experienced violence and loss early on. Still, there’s a tremendous strength in her character, a determinedness despite the fact that she spends the majority of the novel in bed. Hey, she’s not still, she travels through her past in her mind, relieving horrif
Kara Passey
Jun 13, 2021 rated it really liked it
women 😭😭😭 I really liked this! the style and format was very unique and took a little bit of adjusting at the beginning but it served the story so well that I grew to enjoy it. birdie, the book and the character, has a quiet strength that I found very moving. feels like a book that should be reread. my copy (the library’s copy) had a little section at the back where the author answered some questions about the book and I thought that helped me understood the book a little more than I would’ve wi ...more
Jul 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: precinct-81
A beautifully written, moving and difficult story. I loved it from the beginning to the end. It feels very much like life itself is: not clean, finished and clear when you finish. Not all the questions are answered, but for me it was not about the answers: it was about the path the women travelled, the way they tried to cope with life and how they tried to be there for eachother.
I loved the book, so a four and a half stars worth.
Nov 09, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A very powerful read. My mind is mulling it all over and my heart is feeling everything.
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Play Book Tag: Birdie / Tracey Lindberg. 2 stars 1 14 Mar 18, 2017 10:43PM  
Write Reads Podcast: Write Reads #39 Birdie 1 7 May 09, 2016 02:11PM  

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Tracey Lindberg is a citizen of As’in’i’wa’chi Ni’yaw Nation Rocky Mountain Cree and hails from the Kelly Lake Cree Nation community.

A graduate of the University of Saskatchewan, Harvard University and the University of Ottawa law schools, she is the first Aboriginal woman in Canada to complete her graduate law degree at Harvard. Lindberg won the Governor General's Award in 2007 upon convocation

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