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Three Day Road

4.31  ·  Rating details ·  16,441 Ratings  ·  1,398 Reviews
It is 1919, and Niska, the last Oji-Cree woman to live off the land, has received word that one of the two boys she saw off to the Great War has returned. Xavier Bird, her sole living relation, is gravely wounded and addicted to morphine. As Niska slowly paddles her canoe on the three-day journey to bring Xavier home, travelling through the stark but stunning landscape of ...more
Paperback, 384 pages
Published March 14th 2006 by Penguin Canada (first published March 17th 2005)
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Míchílín I am interested in this same topic from a Canadian perspective. I wouldn't recommend Boyden at all to satiate this curiosity as he has recently been…moreI am interested in this same topic from a Canadian perspective. I wouldn't recommend Boyden at all to satiate this curiosity as he has recently been outed as an imposter. Of course, anyone with an understanding of First Nations literature on Turtle Island would have been able to tell just by reading Boyden's books that he doesn't really have any First Nations heritage -- he writes very much in the tradition of CanLit where conflict with nature is a major theme in contrast to FN authors for whom connection to the land is almost always a central theme. Boyden is not an authentic voice in the project of #Reconciliation.

If you're looking for First Nations authors describing the Canadian context, I recommend Richard Wagamese first and foremost as he manages to tell the painful truth about colonialism in Canada while keeping you rolling on the floor with laughter. _Keeper'n Me_ and _Indian Horse_ should be required reading in all high schools in Canada. Thomas King is another great FN storyteller with much literary merit and conscious things to say. I would start with these two.

It's also interesting to contrast with the US experience as the British learned from watching the bloody "Indian Wars" in the US that the deceit of treaties would be the path of least resistance to obtaining land on the portion of Turtle Island now known as Canada. Also, many nations were artificially divided by the US-Canadian border and that is an ongoing issue on both sides of it today. There was a time, for example, where a Mohawk woman from Ontario would lose her Indian Status if she married a Mohawk man from New York. Two of my favourite FN authors writing in the US side of Turtle Island are Sherman Alexie and Leslie Marmon Silko.(less)
Míchílín I wouldn't inflict this novel on students. I couldn't finish reading it as the trench warfare scenes were waaaaaaaaaaaay too violent.

Also, I would…more
I wouldn't inflict this novel on students. I couldn't finish reading it as the trench warfare scenes were waaaaaaaaaaaay too violent.

Also, I would argue that it is important to seek out First Nations voices rather than more western folks interpreting First Nations cultures and experiences for them as this just perpetuates colonial power structures and creates more harmful misrepresentations and misunderstandings. Boyden writes very much in the tradition of CanLit where conflict with nature is a major theme in contrast to FN authors for whom connection to the land is almost always a central theme. Boyden is not an authentic voice in the project of #Reconciliation.

If you're looking for First Nations authors for high school students, I recommend Richard Wagamese first and foremost (esp. if you're teaching in Ontario as he is Anishnabeg) -- he manages to tell the painful truth about colonialism in Canada while keeping you rolling on the ground with laughter. _Keeper'n Me_ and _Indian Horse_ should be required reading in all high schools in Canada. Thomas King is another great FN storyteller with much literary merit and conscious things to say that I have used with high school students in all grades. He has Blackfoot heritage so I would feature him more prominently if I taught in Alberta. Of course, Sherman Alexie's _Diary of a Part Time Indian_ has become quite popular in high-school English classrooms as well and even though he is Spokane-Coeur d'Alene, the story mirrors the Canadian context quite well and who can pass up a YA offering at the high school level?(less)

Community Reviews

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Ruzz
Aug 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who can read.
Shelves: 2008
I found Three Day Road when a notoriously late friend was more than an hour late to meet me and I had time to browse a local bookstore. I didn't pick the book up that day, but i noted it.

Later, while near the bookstore I went back in and grabbed it. The idea of the book crossed a number of vectors of interest for me. War history (wait, don't stop reading yet), snipers (please, keep reading), and early 20th century Natives.

I expected it to at least titillate my love of snipers, and war and the
...more
Matthew Quann
Nov 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, oh-canada
A novel that begins at the end, and ends with a beginning. Three Day Road is a stunning debut from one of Canada’s foremost writers, Joseph Boyden. When Xavier Bird returns from WWI addicted to morphine and wounded, his aunt Niska embarks with him on a three-day journey towards their home in the Northern Ontario bush. As Niska paddles along towards their home, the reader slides seamlessly between Xavier’s remembrances of his time at war and Niska’s account of Xavier as a boy. Central to the nove ...more
Warwick
This seemed like a serendipitous discovery when I stumbled on it in an Ontario bookshop last week. Not literally stumbled – although, come to think of it, there were several piles of books on the floor there which gave browsing something of a parkour flavour. But I had negotiated those hazards successfully. No, I meant stumbled on in the metaphorical sense that I found it by chance. Anyway, can we move on? I have a review to write.

So yes, I hadn't heard of Boyden before, but clearly he's somethi
...more
Malcolm
Feb 11, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone
Book Review: Three Day Road
Joseph Boyden
Viking Canada Penguin 2005
ISBN 0-670-06362-2
Once in a long while one reads a book that you cannot put down and the overall beauty of it leaves one gasping. Three Day Road, is such a book. It tells the story of Two Cree young men who find themselves in WW I fighting in the trenches of France as snipers using their hunting and shooting skills they learned in the bush growing up near James Bay.

The story begins with the protagonist, Xavier Bird, has retur
...more
Howard
Jan 20, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Howard by: Michael
The gold standard for novels about combat in World War I has always been All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque, first published in 1929. I first read it many years ago and have since re-read it a couple of times.

There are a number of fabulous goodreads reviews of this classic novel, reviews by Ted, Kemper, Larry Bassett, and Diane Barnes. If you haven't read the book, you should read these reviews and then you may want to.

But I also wish to express my gratitude to several goodr
...more
Maxwell
I'm a huge fan of Boyden's work. I was really impressed by The Orenda and Through Black Spruce, and loved his stories in Born with a Tooth. When I finally got around to his debut novel, I think it proved to be a bit underwhelming.

Stylistically, Boyden is as strong as ever in this one; his writing is sharp, observant, and transportive. The ways in which he weaves together both Niska and Xavier's stories is excellent. And the tension that builds throughout between Elijah and Xavier is palpable.
...more
Bonnie
5 stars

I'm not sure I've read any other books inspired by the First World War, but I am sure Joseph's story is different than anything else ever written.

Agreed, I was slow to get TO it (heard him read first chapter in Whistler 2007), and to really get into it, but oh -- when I did, I couldn't turn the pages fast enough!

I read this, for the most part, on the beach while vacationing in Mexico. I couldn't help but react out loud: his battle scenes, e.g., are so vivid, chilling. But saying that sim
...more
Connie
Xavier Bird struggles on crutches as he descends from the train in northern Canada in 1919. He is in terrible pain and addicted to morphine since a war injury resulted in the amputation of his leg. The relentless horror in the trenches of the Western Front have also taken their toll emotionally. His aunt Niska, an Oji-Cree medicine woman, takes Kavier home in a three day journey in her canoe.

The Canadian government had a forced residential education program, attempting to eradicate the First Nat
...more
VictoriaNickers
This is a phenomenal and haunting book. Loved the story despite most of it being set in the WWI. Maybe because it not the traditional stories told of WWI. The characters are deep and complex. So powerfully written that it makes you stop and wonder what hell is going on with society. It's like a stab to the heart. It will make you very uncomfortable.

The story follows Xavier Bird, a young First Nations Canadian, journey through leaving the bush, enlisting in and serving as a sniper in WWI, then t
...more
Jennifer (aka EM)
Nov 18, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is two of my favourite reads: a "futility-of-war" novel by a Native Canadian writer, and with a unique Native Canadian angle.

Xavier and Elijah are Ojibwe-Cree from "the North Country" (which in this case means James Bay area) who sign up for WW I, and - because of their hunting prowess - make for excellent warriors. Niska - X's auntie - welcomes a deeply changed X home, and does what she can to help X cope with all he has seen, suffered and lost.

The novel is about killing and healing and in
...more
Michael
I love Erdrich's blurb for the book: "a devastatingly truthful work of fiction, and a masterful account of hell and healing. This is a grave, grand, and passionate book." This is the story of a three-day canoe journey home for Cree Indian Xavier Bird, who arrives by train in northern Ontario severely damaged from his experience as an infantry soldier in World War 1. He has lost a leg and is addicted to morphine. He is accompanied by his only family member, his aunt Niska, a medicine woman who ra ...more
Aubrey
Sep 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Aubrey by: Friederike Knabe
7/16/17 edit: after Boyden's revelation of his extremely shaky claim to indigenous roots, take this review with a bag of salt.

---

I've spent increasing amounts of time wondering what the ratio of literature to propaganda masquerading as such is in regards to the stacks upon my shelves. Books in the vein of The Guest and Almanac of the Dead and Novel Without a Name make such considerations necessary, and the anything goes approach the reading community largely plays with dehumanized portrayals ma
...more
Chrissie
This book is loosely based on the famed Native Canadian WW1 sniper Francis Pegahmagabow. It is about WW1 trench warfare; it is about the role Native Canadians played in this warfare and it is about mystical Cree beliefs. I think this book goes a step deeper. It is about warfare in general and also about taking another person’s life outside of the war setting. I am left very troubled by the ending. I have more questions after reading this book than before. Am I a pacifist? Am I against all wars? ...more
Rosana
Jan 06, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Rosana by: book club pick by Georgina
I love this book. It is definitely in the pack of books I would carry with me from a burning building. I read it 2 years ago or so, and recently browsed through it again for a book club discussion. I feel surprised with myself that a book with so many graphic descriptions of battles and death does not however make me put it on the list of books never to reread. For all the sadness and destruction it describes, still it does not leave me downhearted. I guess I see the characters' struggles as an ...more
Doug H
Jan 08, 2017 rated it really liked it

"I'm gonna lay down my sword and shield
Down by the riverside
I ain't gonna study war no more"


Three Day Road is presented as the intertwined narratives of two Cree Indians: Xavier Bird (a soldier returning from the battlefields of WWI) and his aunt Niska (a fierce Medicine Woman). Dipping in and out between the past and the present as they paddle homeward in a canoe, their sad stories have a floating quality that matches the river environment and the healing properties of water.

Boyden's writing i
...more
Friederike Knabe
Nov 24, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian-lit
Linking Cree hunting stories with World War I frontline accounts would seem an odd undertaking, to say the least. The wild Canadian North with its harsh yet beautiful landscape and tough living conditions for those surviving off the land is a far cry - physically and spiritually - from the trenches and the killing fields of Ypres and the Somme. Yet, Boyden has successfully merged these seemingly disparate themes through his telling of the life stories of the three protagonists: Xavier, Elijah an ...more
Toni
Nov 28, 2011 rated it really liked it
I learned much from this book. I learned about trench warfare, the primary method of fighting in World War One. I learned about the Native American bush Indians of Canada and the hardships and racism that they survived. I learned that the white americans admired their hunting and tracking skills and transformed these individuals from hunters of animals into hunters of men during the war and the toll on their spirit that this transformation wrought.
I learned that every war through history has cre
...more
Catherine
Apr 03, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009, ojibwe_country
This is an exceptional book, although harrowing - I'm not sure I could say I enjoyed it; my feeling is closer to respect, and admiration, for what the author achieved.

Three Day Road is the story of two young Cree men who volunteer for service in WWI. Only one returns - Xavier - and the novel follows his progress as he travels back downriver, with his aunt, to his home. He's broken, physically and mentally, by the war, is addicted to morphine, and as he slips back into the past and relates the st
...more
Julie Christine
Xavier Bird, a young Ojibwa from the Moose Cree tribe in northern Ontario, returns to Canada from the Europe's Western Front in the summer of 1919. He is alone, in unimaginable pain from an amputated leg, addicted to morphine, and dying from a spirit broken by the nightmare of war.

Carrying him home in her dugout canoe is his aunt Niska, an elderly medicine woman who has lived on her own in the bush since escaping a Catholic boarding school in her teens. Through a twisting, dreamlike journey of
...more
Brad
I am wemistikoshiw, so I don't and won't pretend to understand what it is to be Oji-Cree -- nor any other nation for that matter. I pass no judgment on their beliefs, their lives, their experiences, their ways, but I do feel the great of weight personal disgust and guilt all wemistikoshiw should feel for the genocide of their peoples and cultures our ancestors began, which we carry on every day.

I've been the lover of a Cree woman, a woman I still love and always will, but I have no illusions th
...more
Martha☀
Jan 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
Xavier Bird of the Cree Nation grew up in a world of peace and solitude, hunting moose and grouse along the edge of Hudson's Bay in Northern Ontario in the early 1900s. Answering the call of The Great War, he and his closest friend, Elijah, head into the big city to enlist in the Canadian Army. As a Cree-speaking native, he is excluded from the camaraderie of his platoon and shunned for his cultural heritage, lack of English and quiet nature. As a gifted sniper, the atrocities that he witnesses ...more
Jackie
Dec 26, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I first heard about this book a couple years ago on the Today show. At first it was hard to take a Today show book club selection seriously, but then I decided to listen to what the star author had to say about the book. Isabel Allende introduced Three Day Road, and her enthusiasm for the story really intrigued me. She writes in a completely different genre (magical realism) from what she decribed this book to be (WWI historical fiction), so I thought I should give it a shot. And I decided to wa ...more
Jim
Jan 17, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Outstanding novel. Probably one of the most enjoyable novels I have read concerning World War 1, that also provides a lot of insight into life in pre-war Canada for its Native population, in this case particularly the Cree. I really enjoyed the gradual reveal, alternating between the two narrators, of the friendship between two boys, the relationship between aunt and nephew. The treatment of Natives in Canada was not much better than what they received in the United States, with similar racism a ...more
Farzane
May 04, 2015 rated it really liked it
تا حالا کتابای زیادی خوندم که جنگ رو تقبیح کردند. کتابایی مثل در جبهه غرب خبری نیست یا عقرب روی پله های راه آهن اندیمشک که چهره ی کریه جنگ رو به بهترین شکل ممکن به تصویر کشیده بودند. اما نشون دادن جزئیات جنگ رو تا زمانی که جاده ی سه روزه رو نخونده بودم توی هیچ کتابی ندیده بودم. طوری که چند بار دچار حالت تهوع شدم و دستم رو جلوی دهنم گرفتم. بویدن نویسنده ی بسیار تواناییه که چهره ی واقعی جنگ رو نشون میده. جنگی که باعث از بین رفتن معصومیت در خیلی از آدمها میشه. ای کاش به جای پخش کردن کتاب " دا " توی ...more
Lorina Stephens
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
An astonishing novel. An even more astonishing first novel. There can be no disputing Joseph Boyden is not only an accomplished story-teller, but a significant Canadian voice in the 21st century.

Three Day Road, drawn from real people and real history, is an impeccably researched, and skilfully wrought tale of two Cree soldiers who fight in the nightmare of WWI. It is a story about the terror of residential schools, the descent into madness, and the arduous journey back to peace of mind and body.
...more
Barbara
Oct 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
UH-mazing.
Still reeling from the emotional whirlwind of the last couple of chapters. Wow.
Loved that I learned about new aspects of WWI (new to me, that is) and Native Canadian culture. I was actually told to read Through Black Spruce before I stumbled on this one--JB's first novel--and I'm so glad that I did.
Literature at its finest! Take a bow Mr. Boyden.
Joyce Lagow
Apr 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
War is ugly and always has been; people die and usually gruesomely. But there seems to be a general consensus that the most horror-filled war was The Great War, The War to End All Wars--World War I. Not before or since have armies been mired down in trenches, where it was possible to die from drowning in mud, never mind from bullets or artillery. Being static--unable to move, to have at least the illusion of dodging incoming artillery--did something to the psyches of the soldiers who fought in t ...more
Jgrace
Three Day Road - Boyden
4.5 stars

“We all fight on two fronts, the one facing the enemy, the one facing what we do to the enemy.”

The story begins 1919, with an old Cree woman in a canoe. She is paddling a river in Northern Ontario, leaving the wilderness to meet her only remaining relative, a wounded nephew, returning from the trenches in France. The story is told in two voices, the elderly Niska and the traumatized Xavier Bird. The suffering Xavier remembers the horrors of France, his career as
...more
Liza Fireman
Sep 25, 2016 rated it really liked it
The first half of this book is not my normal favorite type, but the second half compensates for this. It deals with the wounds of war and how it can drive young men into madness with blood lust and killing, crossing a moral line that is sometimes beyond redemption and forgiveness.

Xavier and his best friend Elijah volunteered to fight in WWI. Since they are skilled hunters they quickly become snipers. Their relationship is almost symbiotic even though they are very different. Xavier is quiet and
...more
Heather(Gibby)
This is the third book I read by Joseph Boyden, having previously read The Orenda, and Through Black Spruce.

This story revolves around two Cree Indians who enlist in the Canadian Army in World War One, and are sent to fight in such legendary battles as Vimy Ridge, and Paschendale. The story poignantly describes both the struggles of war, and the internal struggles of these two characters. Along side this story is the story of one of the character's aunts who raised him from a young boy, and is
...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
More about Joseph Boyden...

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“We all fight on two fronts, the one facing the enemy, the one facing what we do to the enemy.” 11 likes
“This memory, this pretty little stone, I examine it with my eyes closed tight. Turn it over in my fingers.” 5 likes
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