Until the age of twelve, Georgia Lee Kay-Stern believed she was Jewish — the story of her Cree birth family had been kept secret. Now she’s living on her own and attending first year university, and with her adoptive parents on sabbatical in Costa Rica, the old questions are back. What does it mean to be Native? How could her life have been different? As Winnipeg is threatened by the flood of the century, Georgia Lee’s brutal murder sparks a tense cultural clash. Two families wish to claim her for burial. But Georgia Lee never figured out where she belonged, and now other people have to decide for her.
I am trying to find the words to say how much I liked this book. Like a flawless jewel, there was not one word that didn't serve the story. All of the characters were believable and the plot was engaging enough that it kept me from doing any of the other things that needed to be done, including sleeping.
A novel that starts out as a thriller, leading the reader down a path of expectations, like a police procedural, soon turns into an absolutely heart-wrenching tale about loss: Loss of family, loss of self, loss of life. So often in thrillers, the reader is left with the a hero, a detective -- or some other protagonist -- in hot pursuit of a maniacal killer, and the "dead girl" (always a girl) is fodder for the plot. Not so here. In What the Living Do, the the thrill of the plot comes as the fumes of the "dead girl" linger in the lives of those she has left behind. A tug of war over her the rights to her corpse is the backdrop for an emotional charged tale, complicated and thrilling in the most heartbreaking way. Maggie Dwyer is an excellent writer, and this is a very good book.
Fascinating masterpiece. As a former Winnipegger, who lived through the flood of 1997 and knows full well the history of aboriginal racism in our province, I recognize how well this novel sheds light on the sides and issues of murdered indigenous women, love and resentment, caring and loss with infinite insight and precious nuances. I truly had difficulty putting it down. What is always important to me is whether I like the characters in the midst of all the sorrow and drama and Dwyer had me drawn in from the get-go. So glad I read this book.
I really enjoyed the structure of this novel and how it opens with a letter that really draws you into the characters, wanting to know more about what has happened. The dialogue between writers was also done very well and feels incredibly authentic. I highly recommend this book!