Three Day Road Three Day Road discussion


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Needing to talk about this book

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Gillian I'm looking for people or someone to talk about this book with. I don't know anyone who has read it and I'm finding this book really difficult to read (topic-wise). It is an amazing book, one of the best that I've ever read! But there are certain things that I'm having difficulty not discussing. The big one being Elijah.

Please please please, if anyone is interested in chatting please message me or reply.


Matthew Williams I loved this book! It was difficult to deal with in specific areas, real depressing in fact. But I still thought it was so highly relevant. What about Elijah are you finding difficult? I know there's a lot, but anything specific?


Gillian First off thanks for replying (and so quickly)!

I completely agree with what you've said; really difficult in specific areas and extremely depressing at times. I think what I'm finding most difficult might just be how unfair everything is. I know that probably seems vague, but really the fact that life is so unfair. Xavier is such a strong character, so smart and caring, humble, brave and talented that I'm finding it a) difficult to see him receive absolutely no credit for his efforts and b) be brought down in almost every way by Elijah.

Now specifically about Elijah. How corrupted he's become (possibly not the correct word choice, but I'm hoping you know what I mean). How he's completely given over to the morphine, blood lust and cruelties of war. How everyone thinks he's such a fantastic person when he really isn't. How he can get away with anything. I just find it incredibly frustrating.

The biggest thing I think I'm having with this book though is how realistic it is. Every now and then I feel myself panicking with thoughts that people actually experienced what Elijah and Xavier did. How people watched their friends die in horrifying way right in front of their eyes, completely unable to do anything. How soldiers lost themselves to morphine because they had to continue fighting in so much physical pain or because they experienced so much emotional trauma. And the fact that it's all still happening today.


Matthew Williams Gillian wrote: "First off thanks for replying (and so quickly)!

I completely agree with what you've said; really difficult in specific areas and extremely depressing at times. I think what I'm finding most diffic..."


That's true, it did happen and still does go on. But luckily, things have progressed since WWI in a lot of ways. That's one thing I find astounding about the whole thing. Here were guys who lived in dugouts, permeated by mud, lice, rats, dead bodies, and had to deal with constant exposure. And the death toll was catastrophic compared to today.

And yet, from all that came a new awareness about war and terrible scourges of it. People didn't doubt the validity of war trauma after that, or question the intentions of conscientious objectors. And they made sure that nothing of the sort, i.e. terrible stalemates, would ever happen again.

I don't want to give you any spoilers so I won't tell you what happens with the two men. How far along are you in it?


Gillian Definitely the knowledge that was gained is invaluable but sometimes I still find it a little overwhelming to think about the horrors that those soldiers went through; everything that you mentioned and more. This book just paints such a vivid picture that the scenes are ingrained in my mind and sometimes it's a little hard to continue reading.

I knew I'd forgotten to mention something in my rambling message. I've just started the chapter "The Letter" (which I'm incredibly nervous about reading given something Xavier said about it previously). They've either just left or are about to leave Passchendaele. I believe that Xavier has now run out or is about to run out of morphine in "present day".


Donna-lynn Baskin I've read this twice and I've taught to my college English class. We loved it - this Canadian author has a distinctive voice and an engaging style. We have ordered his next book "Through Black Spruce" to read together this semester.


Matthew Williams Donna-lynn wrote: "I've read this twice and I've taught to my college English class. We loved it - this Canadian author has a distinctive voice and an engaging style. We have ordered his next book "Through Black Spru..."

Interesting. What's that one about? My wife and I both read Three Day Road and I'm thinking of passing it on to my father, as he is a total war buff.


Donna-lynn Baskin I haven't read it yet - ordered it on faith as the class responded so well to his first one. It is billed as a follow up to Three Day Road and is supposed to use the reflective narration style he does so well in Three Day Road. Central themes are still around the cultural clash and the negative impact to traditional lifestyle. Boyden has such a strong story-telling style that I am really looking forward to reading it. I will post my thoughts when I do but I don't think you are taking an outrageous risk to order it. Some authors just have "it" and Boyden is one of those lucky few!! *smile*


message 9: by Cal (new) - rated it 5 stars

Cal Hi, Not sure I understand your angst about the characters. For me it is a book at least in large part about being de-valued by a dominant society that imposes its structure on another society. Elijah is lost in the de-humanizing activities of killing without personal cause and being disconnected from his traditional identity. I think it continues today when we see "lost" FN people.
Still a very active pressure on indigenous people today throughout the world. IMHO, Cal


message 10: by Rob (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rob I see the original post was on 9/13 and Gillian's last post the same day. I wonder if he still rates this book with five stars...should be finished by now.

Maybe the original poster lives in a town where he can visit a veteran's center to see first hand what combat does to people. If he lives in the US he can find one easily enough.

Personally I enjoyed the book. I thought it to be a good account of the "hero's journey", a going out, meeting unbelievable challenges, and returning home,
transformed.


Matthew Williams Rob wrote: "I see the original post was on 9/13 and Gillian's last post the same day. I wonder if he still rates this book with five stars...should be finished by now.

Maybe the original poster lives in a tow..."


The "original poster" is a woman. And what this talk about visiting a veteran center? Is that a friendly suggestion or are you saying they need an eye-opener or something?


Yvonne This book is rated highly by myself and have recommended it to many. The horror of war and especially WWI is well known and verified. The use (& abuse)of First Nations peoples in WWI is also known but I think that many aspects of this story might apply to many that came from farmsteads and "regular" people who just didn't have an idea of what they would be facing. A great read with a lot to digest on many levels.


Nancy Leindecker I really enjoyed the book and I have Through Black Spruce on my "to read" list. I found the book depicted war in a true light and then the struggle of a man finding his way back
.


Linda I enjoyed this novel and Through Black Spruce is even better! I laughed, cried, and gained a deeper understanding of the FN culture from reading both novels.


message 15: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Parkhurst Gillian wrote: "I'm looking for people or someone to talk about this book with. I don't know anyone who has read it and I'm finding this book really difficult to read (topic-wise). It is an amazing book, one of th..."

Gillian, I'm not sure what it is about Elijah you're wondering about. I've taught this book for several years now to my juniors. Teaching a book forces the reader to look deeper and below the surface. I believe the key to this book is the whole windigo theme that recurs throughout. In many respects, Three Day Road is similar to Greek tragedy. Most Greek tragedies deal with the idea of fate, and how a person can escape his destiny. It seems that Xavier is fated to become a hookimaw (windigo-killer) and Elijah must be fated to become a windigo. Of course, the war is what brings these terrible qualities in Elijah. Personally, in addition to examining Native American culture, I also believe that Joseph Boyden might be suggesting that war makes windigos of many who are part of war's horrors. Elijah's biggest flaw, I believe is his own hubris (another major theme in Greek tragedy). He loses touch with his Cree culture, and this is one of the factors that leads to his destruction. Contrast this with Xavier, who remains strongly tied to his culture, even in the killing fields of the Western Front. I think this is what saves Xavier, although he emerges from the war shattered and with a very uncertain future. If you get some time, do a little research on the archetypal Trickster in myth and literature, and you'll see that this is what Joseph Boyden has created through his character, Elijah. There's a line spoken to Niska by an old grandmother about midway through the book. The old woman says, "You are a hookimaw. Happiness is not yours to have." That line is, in my view, the key to understanding the essence of Three Day Road.
I hope this gives you some insight.


Gillian Thank you Don. That's actually very helpful. Boyden's writing had gotten me so emotionally absorbed in the story, perhaps too absorbed that I couldn't quite take a step back and think about it clearly. After having taken a break from the book I now feel kind of silly for not having seen the windigo/windigo-killer relationship between Elijah and Xavier. It makes so much more sense and I think I can go back and reread this book with a much clearly head.


message 17: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Parkhurst Glad I helped offer some insight. It's a great book and quite an emotional journey.


message 18: by Krystabel (new)

Krystabel Nkwocha How does the Hero's Journey outline come in this book?


message 19: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Parkhurst I would apply mainly to Xavier. The war is the disaster that disrupts his life. His symbolic underworld is the war itself and he is transformed by the experience. In the war, Xavier must deal with hi own personal dark forces and the external dark forces presented by the war itself and its effects on Elijah. He suffers several types of loss through his experience: innocence, Elijah, and the physical loss of his leg. The big question is whether or not Xavier can reintegrate into his Cree society. It's really not all that different than Frodo in Lord of the Rings, but in an entirely different context.


message 20: by Don (new) - rated it 5 stars

Don Parkhurst Oh, and sorry for the typos. I wrote that in a hurry.


message 21: by Mo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mo Don wrote: "Gillian wrote: "I'm looking for people or someone to talk about this book with. I don't know anyone who has read it and I'm finding this book really difficult to read (topic-wise). It is an amazing..."


message 22: by Mo (last edited Sep 28, 2013 11:41PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mo Hi Gillian, I think it was very brave of you to be so honest about your conflicted and strong feelings while reading Three Day Road. I've read it twice over the years, and believe it to be brilliant literature that will stand the test of time as an eventual classic. My own father was Ojibwe, which is very close to & similar to Cree. Even our language is similar. My father was also in WWII for three years; Air Force, but on the ground with bombs blowing up beside him as he fixed radios for communication; running from snipers with only a short range revolver, sleeping in pig enclosures and mud holes in the battle fields. He landed on Juno Beach on D-Day plus one, and it was just like the movie, Saving Private Ryan, he said. He saw emaciated men in stripped filthy prison 'pajama's' walking barefoot down a rail track, after his concentration camp was liberated. all the Jewish survivor wanted, was to get as far away from the camp as he could. he was barefoot. my dad & other men gave him boots, socks, food, blankets , but he wanted to keep going. it was just like that! Joseph Boyden's writing on these subjects is an authentic voice. The theme of Windego is a common one in our Indigenous Oral history and we are beginning to bring these stories into writing . I'm also a Canadian 'Nish' writer and know Boyden, and we've written to one another. He is a man of great passion for life and acute comprehension and intelligence. Stay with the book. It sounds like you have been drawn inside of it. You will also walk through into a redemption song. Li -Megwetch... Thank-you for your brave openness with your process. You sound very self aware. Grow onwards, young blood. Make something beautiful of your life. Life is precious. Elijah never completely loses sight of that, even as he travelled through a touch of hell, and faced Windego.
M.A.Pigeon, author of Strange Things Done, coming out in 2014, Freisen Press... Another Indigenous Story! HO!!!


Mary Ellen I read this book a few years ago, and though I have lost many of the details, in most respects it has stayed with me.
Windigo are "made" by cannibalism....so the comment about war "making" people windigo is so apt. Of course, it did not do that to Xavier. As someone (Don?) pointed out, he was grounded in his culture, and so in his sense of self, of who he was, walking the earth, even the devastated earth of No Man's Land.
My grandfather & great-uncle fought in the US infantry in WWI. Reading this book, I understood why they never spoke of their experiences.


Terri I feel changed by this book like second hand trama. It is awful what people do to each other and how many lives were lost. I was so glad for the ending I also found some peace.


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