Three Day Road

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Three Day Road

by Joseph Boyden

Penguin Group Canada | May 6, 2008 | Trade Paperback

Three Day Road is rated 4.56 out of 5 by 25.

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 Northern Ontario, their respective stories emerge—stories of Niska’s life among her kin and of Xavier’s horrifying experiences in the killing fields of Ypres and the Somme.


 

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 408 pages, 8.25 × 5.25 × 1.05 in

Published: May 6, 2008

Publisher: Penguin Group Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0143056956

ISBN - 13: 9780143056959

Found in: Fiction and Literature

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Reviews

Rated 5 out of 5 by from This is an incredible book! For me, Three Day Road has been one of my best read in a long time. The subjects are not easy: WWI, residential schools, addiction, etc, but at the same time, provide an enriching experience through the descriptions. It is very descriptive; very graphic, which allows the reader the picture the scenes very vividly, whether they be tragic or more positive. Although the story shifts from one place to the next, it flows well and is not difficult to follow. Thank you to Joseph Boyden for this glimpse back in dark times: it allowed me to better understand the role of Canadians in WWI and specifically of populations that often have not been recognized for their valuable contribution (native indians). I also enjoyed reading about the traditions of Cree and Ojibwe through Niska. It was rich and poignant.  
Date published: 2014-03-09
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Started off slowly, but picked up in second half 3.5 stars The focus in this book is primarily on two Cree best friends who become snipers, fighting for Canada in World War I. The book does flip back and forth between the viewpoint of Xavier (one of the snipers) and his aunt, Niska, who raised him. The first half of the book was pretty slow-going for me. But it really picked up in the second half, I thought. The best parts of the book were the WWI scenes, in my opinion. I often had trouble at the beginning of each chapter, not following right away whose viewpoint we were following at that point. The book also jumped around when it came to the time frame – during the war, Xavier growing up, Niska when she was younger, after the war, etc. - so I found that a bit confusing at times, as well. Overall, though, it was good. I'm glad I finally read it.
Date published: 2012-09-11
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Good, but not that great. After reading all the (mostly rave) reviews for this book I thought I'd give it a try. It's been a while since I read it but I remember feeling as though it didn't stack up to all the hype surrounding it. It was definitely a good book, it just wasn't wonderful or mind-blowing for me. Some parts were a little hard to get through for the graphic, disturbing imagery, although I appreciate that Boyden didn't sugarcoat his subject matter. I found Niska's side of the story, about living off the land in the traditional Native way, interesting. As for Xavier's story... he was a real and well-developed character and I definitely felt compassion for him. And I was more and more sickened by Elijah as time went on. But all the details of the war didn't enthrall me. I guess that's just not a topic that interests me. One thing I remember clearly is that it wasn't one of those books where I had a hard time putting it down and couldn't wait to pick it up again. It wasn't an absorbing, page-turning read for me. It was good, but not great... not my cup of tea I guess.
Date published: 2011-08-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good, light read I don't read much of this type of fiction, however at the recommendation of a friend I picked it up. An unchallenging, light, quick read that is quite satisfying for what it is; a glimpse into 2 past worlds. My only real criticism would be that in a book this short the conclusion leaves something to be desired; the author would have been better served to close the circle. Even so, good read.
Date published: 2011-07-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "I have experienced war in these pages" This novel is not for the faint-hearted, the descriptions of trench warfare are brutally accurate, but beyond that, you will be dazzled with some of the best writing ever to grace a page. Joseph Boyden hasn't just walked onto the Canadian literary scene, he has blown it's doors off, with both guns blazing! I doubt anyone could write from a native perspective with more accuracy, or sensitivity. One of the most talented writers in this country, and we Canadians know about talented writers. Stunning!
Date published: 2011-03-10
Rated 5 out of 5 by from "It reads like you're watching a movie"... ...was my son's comment. Has a more VIVID account of setting out by canoe for Toronto - or life in the trenches, been written? Everything else in your world will find itself on 'hold' until you get (safely) to the end of this one. Sadly, not everyone makes it. And war really is "hell".
Date published: 2011-02-21
Rated 5 out of 5 by from READ THIS BOOK This was one of those rare books that I didn't want to end. I was so engaged in the story that I didn't want to put it down and I wished it was longer. It was like a drug and I couldn't get enough. This book should be required reading in Canadian schools for three reasons. I believe it paints a great/horrific picture of WWI, it tells the story of the travisty that residential schools had on the native way of life, and it is a great work of literature. I also loved how this book ties into Boyden's follow up book, Through Black Spruce (which is also a great read).
Date published: 2011-01-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beautiful I'm not a fan of war novels but this book has such a beautiful spiritual element of healing to it that it really moved me. Plus many elements of the book were new to me and so I also found I learned a lot by reading it. Overall, a very beautiful and touching book.
Date published: 2010-10-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This should be a mandatory read for all High School students Could hardly put it down. It's one of those very rare stories that touches something inside you, takes you there, let's you imagine you're right alongside Xavier and Elijah. Shakespeare was good, but our students should be reading novels like this, to learn from our history, to better understand some of the individuals who sacrificed themselves to serve our country. Yes, the novel could be considered graphic, I believe the story would not be the same without it, and in fact brings a much higher level of realism to the story, which many that simply gloss over or ignore the graphic nature of what happened simply can't acheive.
Date published: 2010-08-05
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Could not put down The characters in this book are magical. Such historical drama played out in a way you've never expected. I did not want the book to end and when it did, I went right into Through Black Spruce which was just as gripping. Such wonderful reading I recommend it to all my friends.
Date published: 2010-06-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from One Hell of a Story A great book written through the eyes of two native people during the period of WW1. Gripping and unpredictable, will leave you wanting more. We follow the two characters as one deals with being an outsider in the battlefields of europe, while the other deals with the onslaught of European colonization in western Canada. You wont be able to put this one down
Date published: 2010-04-02
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Absorbing I enjoyed thisnovel although there is a lot of disturbing subject matter. It made me think of the sacrifices all Canadians have made for our freedom. I would definitely recommend it.
Date published: 2010-02-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from If only it were longer. Three Day Road is a story of two Cree boys (bush Cree, they clarify, not plains Cree) who join up to fight with the Canadians in World War I. The book is written as a retrospective – my favourite structure. I love it when you know the end, but you have to read the book to find out what led to it: how the characters got to their destinations. Niska, Xavier’s aunt, is an Ojibwe-Cree woman living alone, and off the land. In 1919 she receives word that Xavier, who she raised from childhood and who is her only surviving relative, is returning from France. She goes to the city to meet the train. On the three-day canoe journey home, with Xavier broken in mind and body, they unfold their stories to each other. There aren’t many characters in Three Day Road…or, more accurately, the three central figures are so intense, so absorbing, that the other people seem washed out by comparison. Xavier, Elijah, and Niska, their internal conflicts, their memories, and their actions, dominate the emotional landscape. Boyden has drawn them with impressive skill, using their voices carefully and consistently. Three Day Road is a glorious novel. There is a lot of pain in its pages, but the stories of trench warfare and the slow erosion of sanity and dignity are not what haunt my memory most clearly. What survives in my mind are images of the Northern Ontario forest, the glimpses into the traditional ways of the Cree, and, most important of all, the characters’ internal beauty.
Date published: 2009-11-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from INCREDIBLE Three Day Road has left an indeligible mark on my heart and my soul. It left me wanting more.
Date published: 2009-11-06
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Heavy but compelling read Three Day Road is a very heavy read. It is about two Cree Soldiers in the Canadian military during World War I, the descent into madness by one, and the power of love from an Auntie who saves the other. This is Boyden's debut novel and is a compelling read that successfully weaves the past, present and the storylines of Xavier with Elijah during the war, and with Xavier and Niska, his Aunt, in the "present." I found I needed to be in the right frame of mind to read it, and I definately did not read it at night before sleeping! The scenes of war are brutal in their realism, and Elijah's behaviour will likely turn your stomach. But what is fascinating is how the author so masterfully and seamlessly tells the story from varying perspectives and time frames. The story opens with Niska at the train station waiting for her nephew Elijah as she has been told that her other nephew, Xavier, has died in the war. But the gaunt and injured soldier that departs the train is not Elijah, but a morphine addicted and severely damaged Xavier who Niska then takes to her canoe for the long slow river ride back home. And on that journey we learn of all of the horrifac things Xavier has seen, done and lived through. The flashbacks to war where Elijah, although a dispicable man, becomes a hero, and Xavier his silent witness to his friend's plummet to hell. During the slow river ride Xavier is unable to eat due to his addiction, but Niska "feeds" him with many stories from her childhood and his. She nourishes him with stories of his culture, his people, and his family. This book, though well written, was a tough read for me. It was upsetting on many levels, but I can say I'm glad I read it. During the last few weeks my family and I have been having some email discussions of our feelings about it at various points of the read, and at the very least we will be able to have some very good discussions at our Book Club Dinner in a couple of weeks
Date published: 2009-10-25
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Best Book I've Ever Read Absolutely enthralling. There is so much meaning on so many levels. I will never forget the life of Xavier Bird.
Date published: 2009-07-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from This can't be fiction! I loved it! A must read for any book club. The Cree, Xavier's encounters of war on the front lines are spell-binding. Couldn't put the book down! The life of his solitary aunt in the northern bush is remarkable.
Date published: 2009-06-19
Rated 5 out of 5 by from fantastic read! I loved this story. I read some of the reviews assigned to 'Through Black Spruce', and wondered, 'is this the same author they are talking about?' Perhaps the other book ISN"T as good as this one, I don't know yet, but I have to say, I was mesmerized by this book, and I would recommend it to anyone. I found that Boyden captures the feelings of those of us who live in the North, particularly Northern Ontario, extremely well, and his imagery is wonderful. This should be required reading for high school history classes!
Date published: 2009-06-02
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional! One of the finest books I've read ever. Makes you appreciate war's profound impact on the soldiers who took part in all wars, not just WWI. The main characters take you to a part of our history which I was unaware of, using our natives specifically as snipers. It also takes you to a dark part of our psyche which is frightening in its starkness. However, it also takes you to a special place of family. I could not put it down till it was done and then I was sad that it was.
Date published: 2009-05-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from It restored my faith in Canlit I adore Joseph Boyden's book and added it to the reading list of my grade 12 students who have been delighted with how clever this powerful story is. This novel echoes the Cain and Abel story, told against the backdrop of the First World War.
Date published: 2009-05-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Must Read One other reviewer said it right - "wow". This is an intense book that I think every Canadian should read. Boyden does a fantastic job of detailing the Canadian contribution to WW1 and the horrible, sometimes disturbing reality of that war. It is the story of two young aboriginal men that volunteer for WW1. The story alternates between the one surviving man recounting their experiences in Europe during the war and his Aunt (Niska) who is telling him stories of her youth and the old ways of the Cree. Some of the stories of the war are disturbing. That was the reality of WW1 (and most wars in my opinion) and Boyden does not gloss over the facts. The Canadian efforts at Vimy Ridge, Ypres, Somme and Paschedaele are all outlined. Niska's stories are also facsinating. As she is paddling her nephew home she recounts stories of her life which highlight aboriginal spirituality and culture. Her childhood was during a time before reservations and the 'white man' and it was very interesting to read about the 'old ways'. This book is a tribute to the sacrifices made by all our young Canadian heroes in WW1, especially the aboriginal men. I recommend this book to everyone!
Date published: 2009-03-09
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Wow. This is by far one of the best books I have ever read. The way Boyden writes, you don't feel as if you are reading his words, but rather, experiencing them. His descriptions of World War I make you think he must have lived through it, even though his age makes that impossible. There have been few books that have moved me in such a way as this story. Reading it around Remembrance Day gave me such a newfound appreciation for what our veterans and soldiers currently fighting over seas have done and continue to do. The characters were incredibly complex and layered. I felt as though I knew them because of how deeply Boyden goes in fleshing them out. Bottom line is, I loved this book and urge everyone to read it at least once.
Date published: 2008-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Three day road This is a wonderful novel, beautifully written with a great complex story. I think this gave a new perspective of WWI for Canadians because the main character is First Nations cree. Joseph Boyden writes about tradition, history, inequality and the costs of war. This is definitely a must read.
Date published: 2008-10-31
Rated 4 out of 5 by from An intense, yet satisfying read... Three Day Road is the story of Xavier Bird, a young Aboriginal man who has returned to Northern Ontario after fighting in World War I. Through the use of vivid descriptions, Boyden manages to transport the reader back to a very difficult time in history, particularly for Aboriginal people. Although Three Day Road is replete with intense descriptions of the horrors of war, he offers the reader moments of reprieve by entwining within it, the story of Niska, who is not only Xavier’s aunt, but “the last Oji-Cree medicine woman to live off the land” (back cover). The fact that I was able to read this novel to the end despite the intensity of the content is a tribute to Boyden’s tremendous storytelling ability. Furthermore, without neglecting the story Boyden educates readers about the realities of the Canadian Aboriginal experience, both historically and today. Three Day Road is told with an authentic voice and only occasional reminders that Niska’s story is in fact being told by a man. Rather than describing a series of events, Boyden captures the humanity of the people in the story so that the reader is able to understand them beyond what a cursory glance would provide. For obvious reasons, Boyden’s story is particularly relevant today; however, it also serves as a reminder that the casualties of war are not only those who do not return home.
Date published: 2008-10-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Outstanding My Canadian history classes didn't teach us about what the natives did during WWI, and in fact far less is available in books and movies of this war than of WWII. This book takes a specific man's story and opens us to some natives contribution and to the horrific Canadian experience of the war. Its told by him and his aunt, the last of their tribe. Very griping and reachable. I highly recommend it.
Date published: 2008-06-25

– More About This Product –

Three Day Road

by Joseph Boyden

Format: Trade Paperback

Dimensions: 408 pages, 8.25 × 5.25 × 1.05 in

Published: May 6, 2008

Publisher: Penguin Group Canada

Language: English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10: 0143056956

ISBN - 13: 9780143056959

From the Publisher

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 Northern Ontario, their respective stories emerge—stories of Niska’s life among her kin and of Xavier’s horrifying experiences in the killing fields of Ypres and the Somme.


 

About the Author

Joseph Boyden is a Canadian with Irish, Scottish, and Métis roots. Three Day Road has received the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award and has also been shortlisted for the Governor General Award for Fiction. He is the author of Born with a Tooth, a collection of stories that was shortlisted for the Upper Canada Writer’ Craft Award. His work has appeared in publications such as Potpourri, Cimarron Review, Blue Penny Quarterly, BlackWarrior, and The Panhandler. He divides his time between Northern Ontario and Louisiana, where he teaches writing at the University of New Orleans.

Editorial Reviews

"There are also lyrical moments which posses an eerie power - especially where Boyden writes about the northern landscape and the human relationship to it. He has illuminated a forgotten corner of the Great War and that, in itself is a prodigious achievement." - The Independent
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