Through Black Spruce

Through Black Spruce

Paperback | September 15, 2009

byJOSEPH BOYDEN

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From internationally acclaimed author Joseph Boyden comes an astonishingly powerful novel of contemporary aboriginal life, full of the dangers and harsh beauty of both forest and city. When beautiful Suzanne Bird disappears, her sister Annie, a loner and hunter, is compelled to search for her, leaving behind their uncle Will, a man haunted by loss.While Annie travels from Toronto to New York, from modelling studios to A-list parties,Will encounters dire troubles at home. Both eventually come to painful discoveries about the inescapable ties of family. Through Black Spruce is an utterly unforgettable consideration of how we discover who we really are.

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Through Black Spruce

Paperback | September 15, 2009
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From the Publisher

From internationally acclaimed author Joseph Boyden comes an astonishingly powerful novel of contemporary aboriginal life, full of the dangers and harsh beauty of both forest and city. When beautiful Suzanne Bird disappears, her sister Annie, a loner and hunter, is compelled to search for her, leaving behind their uncle Will, a man hau...

Joseph Boyden 's first novel, Three Day Road , was selected for the Today Show Book Club, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year Award, the Amazon.ca/ Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Governor Gene...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:432 pages, 8.25 × 5.26 × 1.17 inPublished:September 15, 2009Publisher:Penguin CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:014301787X

ISBN - 13:9780143017875

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Customer Reviews of Through Black Spruce

Reviews

Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very interesting Building on his first work of three day road, Boyden has you follow related characters in a all new set and time. While still immensely enjoyable, it lacks the je ne sais quoi of his first work.
Date published: 2016-11-28
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Good, but not for everybody This novel does a pretty good job at telling paralleling stories, but the format gets somewhat trite halfway through, especially since Boyden has a habit of ending each perspective on somewhat of a cliff hanger, making me not care about the next chapter and wanting to just get back to the other perspective. It tells an interesting story, but it wasn't necessarily for my tastes.
Date published: 2016-11-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Exceptional This is one of my all-time favourite novels. Has stuck with me until this day.
Date published: 2016-11-07
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Solid Boyden Read My favourite novel of Joseph Boyden's! I really enjoy his writing style. I love the character development. Through Black Spruce stays with you.
Date published: 2016-11-06
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Surprising read This book started off slow, but like his other novels, you are drawn in with his writing. Lovely story about discovery and healing.
Date published: 2016-11-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from So moving Another spectacular book by this author. At the base of this novel is a missing person mystery which is very engrossing but as well the novel is So atmospheric, moving, gripping, and heartfelt. Chapter 17 will make you cry. I absolutely loved this book. The writing is to be savoured and enjoyed. I purposely read it slow because I didn't want it to end. The voices of Will and Annie Bird will stay with you long after you have finished. I love his writing.
Date published: 2016-03-15
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Greatness achieved I'd read Boyden's other two novels, Three Day Road and the Orenda, first, and they still linger. This man is a natural born storyteller of such depth and reach I cannot begin to describe the way his books have changed me, and my outlook on the world and my beautiful country. This is a fantastic Canadian read, first of all, and despite being worried after reading some reviews that this was a boring or even trite tale, I'm glad I finally got around to reading this one, too. No, this story is not necessarily as fast-paced or steeped in history as the others. But Will and Annie Bird, like all his other characters, jump right off the page and burrow far into your hearts and minds that when you finally put the book down, you find yourself asking 'what next?' This follows their two narrative voices and experiences that span the same year, taking their two experiences looking for lost loved ones and recovering from injury (there's just enough mystery here to keep you going) and weaving them together until we finally arrive at the very satisfying end. The story takes you from NYC through northern Ontario's wilderness, comparing one stark reality with another. The novel has its violence, as it happens with Boyden's stories, but I urge you not to look away and appreciate this as one of the best Canadian novels of the past century, if I must be honest, by probably the best living Canadian author, if I may offer that opinion. Don't be dismayed by any negative reviews on this book! Go pick it up!
Date published: 2016-02-08
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Awesome Engrossing historical graphic moving emotional smart sad hopfull gripping canadian war native loved.
Date published: 2015-02-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Lift off and landing on the runway of life Masterful, thoughtful and extremely well crafted. This novel follows a story that is gentle then riveting! Be prepared for contemporary themes and discussion of many dimensions of the problems and joys of our Canadian Indian colleagues. Currently, binging on all of Boydens's novels! Can hardly wait until his next novel!
Date published: 2015-01-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from one of my favourites This book is one of my favourites ... such an interesting depiction of two worlds (the old/traditional vs modern/city) and the difficulty in reconciling the differences and choosing where you belong. A refreshing read with great characters and a beautiful landscape. One that you don't want to end.
Date published: 2011-11-26
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Hard to get Into The novel is a follow up to Mr. Boyden’s award winning novel “Three Days Road”, recounting the histories and lives of two fictional James Bay Cree families (The Birds and the Whiskeyjacks). This latest novel centers on Will Bird, son of Xavier Bird, the heroic soldier we were introduced to previously. The story comes to live through two intertwined monologues. We follow Will’s thoughts while he recovers from a serious plane crash, a near death encounter that has left him comatose in a hospital bed. Will is an engaging storyteller, a bush pilot by trade and a charming alcoholic by fate with many tales of adventure to tell, some a hoot and some distressful to hear. Alternate chapters are narrated by his niece Annie Bird while she sits in vigil by his bedside trying to stimulate him back to the living. She uses the time to recount her adventures in Toronto, Montreal and New York while in search of her lost sister Suzanne. These flashbacks create short stories in their lives, each one a glimpse into the desolate forests that surround James Bay and the all too similar affect the underground fashion world can have on someone not accustom to the rat race of the big cities. Each layer reveals secrets of violence, incompetence, kindness, love and compassion. The novel is hard to get into at first, the story launches quickly into two narratives, each one hard to decipher which character is talking and how the bits of information fit together. I gradually immersed myself into the tale and once settle, let the story run its course. I was drawn in by the vivid description of Canada’s vast wilderness and its inhabitants who call it home, the Cree. It was an eye opener realizing the challenges and hardship native people face in big cities where there is a multitude of cultures all trying to survive. The characterization is powerful and the players come across as genuine and loveable. Although the pacing is very slow and the reading is tedious at times, in retrospect I enjoyed the refreshing and informative look into another way of life.
Date published: 2011-04-01
Rated 3 out of 5 by from Well written! Would have given this book more stars but the topic was not super interesting to me. This book was well written and did keep my interest.
Date published: 2010-03-31
Rated 5 out of 5 by from In My Top 10 Of All Time I hesitated and waffled over reading this book - for no particular reason other than I didn't think it would interest me. Yet there was something about the book that hooked me enough - how many times was it in and out of my shopping bag? I'm soooooo glad that I finally bought it and I took it on my 2 week beach vacation. This is one of the best books I've ever read - 3 Day Road is on my shelf, ready to be read and added to the top 10, make that 11 list! Highly recommend it!
Date published: 2010-03-18
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great book by Joseph Boyden I was not anticipating another well-written book by this author -- it's hard for an author to write two extremely successful books! This book unfolded like a story around the campfire. I was listening intently, waiting for the storyteller (who was taking his time) to tell me his and her story. Boyden's description of the hardships encountered with weather and nature were riveting. I so enjoyed the book as most of my bookclub did too. Can't wait for the final book in the trilogy.
Date published: 2010-02-03
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Well written and thought provoking This book is an example of excellence in Canadian literature, and I found it to be well worth the money and my time. I hope it will become part of the curriculum in Canadian literature courses as it raises and develops many important cultural and societal issues in Canadian society. I guess more important than what I think of the book as a white, Anglo Saxon Canadian reader is what a native Canadian living in the north would think of it. I hope it is a fair representation of their lives and issues, their strengths and concerns. I hope the book treats their people with all the respect that they deserve as Canadians .
Date published: 2009-11-16
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Average I am not one to tear apart someone for trying but i have to say this is not an award winner in my opinion. Too underdeveloped to be an award winner. The author does description and narrative well, but the story is too loose. I had no attachment to the characters and the ending seemed contrived. I felt it was just an average read but i feel there are definite streaks of greatness and look forward to future writing by him.
Date published: 2009-10-14
Rated 5 out of 5 by from 2nd Great Novel Boyden did a wonderful job on his second novel Through Black Spruce. Similar to his first, Three Day Road, the story alternates between two main characters - Will Bird (Xavier Bird's son) and his neice Annie. This well crafted novel drew me in within the first few pages and it was very hard to put down. I love Boyden's writing style, especially the dialogue between characters - he captures the subtle dialect differences that exist in N. Ontario communities very well. Although it wasn't as great as Three Day Road (in my opinion) this was an excellent novel that had me hooked until the last page. I can't wait for the third book in the trilogy to be released!
Date published: 2009-07-09
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Crossroads The best way to describe this book is that it is fundamentally about people at the crossroads -- between the traditional and the modern, good and evil, young and old. The novel is a slightly complicated read since Boyden uses a double monologue of both his protagonists Will and Annie. Although slightly distracting at first, both narratives intersect together nicely so it isn't all that difficult to follow. Boyden is a great storyteller there is no doubt about that. I would have appreciated slightly more lyricism in his writing though which at times feels a little mechanical -- for such a great story, it lacks that literary touch. The characters are rich and complex and Boyden does a great job to explore their inner feelings. Overall, I highly recommend "Through Black Spruce" -- it is well-deserving of the Giller Prize. I would call it a Canadian classic, but definitely a true gem.
Date published: 2009-06-07
Rated 4 out of 5 by from I was hooked I brought a copy of Through Black Spruce with me on a weekend holiday with the intention of perhaps getting through the first few chapters. I didn't realize that a chapter or two into the novel I would be hooked - I finished the book before my weekend was over. I enjoyed the simultaneous narratives of the two main characters, each trying to survive in a rough and challenging wilderness: Will in Northern Ontario, and Annie in Toronto and New York City. At times the beginning of the chapters were confusing because the character that was narrating wasn't obvious (and in Annie's case, whether it was the past or the present). The confusion was short-lived and wasn't a real distraction, and was perhaps intended as a way to illustrate the parallels and bonds between the character's lives. I really do recommend this novel. Somehow Joseph Boyden wove a story that easily jumped from one place to another, featuring characters who can trap and skin beaver on one page, and then who sip champagne with celebrities in NYC on another page. There are dark and horrible moments that the characters experience, but somehow the novel does not seem depressing or too dark and hopeless. There are moments of personal triumph, romance and strong family bonds that carry the story above the darkness.
Date published: 2009-04-27
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A page turner I received this book as a present for Christmas and I honestly thought the person who gave it to me probably just picked it out because it had the Giller prize sticker. Personally, I do not take much notice on whether a book wins an award. However, I am also one to try and give a book a fair chance. So I hadn't read any of these reviews until after I finished the book. I found this author told a wonderful story. At first, it took me a couple of chapters to adjust to the native phrasing but once adjusted, I found myself engulfed in the life of Will and his nieces. This book became an addictive page turner. While I really enjoyed this piece of fiction, I will agree with several other posts, that the novel's ending is somewhat lacking. To further explain, it is not events that take place in the ending that were disappointing, it was more so the feel of quick disconnect and no follow up. However, the ending does not deter me from recommending this book to others.
Date published: 2009-03-18
Rated 4 out of 5 by from A Writer to Watch Boyden proves that he's a hot Canadian talent. He can definitely write. If you're the impatient sort, give this book a chance. The early awkwardness disappears and the writerly prose is simplified to tell the story. Boyden may have unnecessarily complicated his novel by using a framing device. A simpler structure would have pared the repetition. He uses the conceit of Will Bird, who's in a coma, addressing his nieces. Especially early on, he tells his nieces something that they wou...more Boyden proves that he's a hot Canadian talent. He can definitely write. If you're the impatient sort, give this book a chance. The early awkwardness disappears and the writerly prose is simplified to tell the story. Boyden may have unnecessarily complicated his novel by using a framing device. A simpler structure would have pared the repetition. He uses the conceit of Will Bird, who's in a coma, address his nieces. Especially early on, he tells his nieces something that they would well know because it happened to them. Boyden's strength is writing about Aboriginal culture. The characters are self-aware about their personal (and cultural) strengths and foibles. Most authors, no matter their race, seem to feel the obligation that one must romanticize the attributes of a non-white race, perhaps to atone for white transgressions or prove that they're not racist. Boyden does celebrate Indian strengths and rues the inherent racism of white institutions, but it's done in the context of story. I haven't lived in a Cree community in northern Ontario or with models in Manhattan. Boyden's Moosonee is very real to me; his Manhattan not so much...
Date published: 2009-03-12
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Really liked this book! I really, really liked this book. I found the story very compelling and the writing had a very good flow. I did find that one section dragged a bit (I won't disclose details of the story for the sake of other readers), which is the only reason I did not give this five stars. This is the kind of book that gives you a peak into another culture and as a result you come out having greater respect for and understanding of it. I love the way Boyden superimposes the two contemporary worlds.
Date published: 2009-03-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Ever! Love and addiction loom under and over this novel like storm clouds, much as they did in Boyden's first novel "Three Day Road." A comatose Will Bird (son of Xavier) tells his nieces how he ended up in "the dream world." As he lies in hospital, his niece Annie speaks to him of her misadventures in the big city. Though neither can hear the other, the telling of their stories is their last hope for healing. Gripping, touching and often laugh out loud funny... Ever great!
Date published: 2009-02-13
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Giller Winner? Upon hearing that Joseph Boyden’s Through Black Spruce had won the highly esteemed and coveted Giller Award, I promptly went out (like any other true blue English Literature graduate) and purchased his novel. However, because of time constraints I did not begin it immediately and am currently only about two-thirds of the way through. Nevertheless, at this juncture (p 251), here is my take. First of all, I believe one can get a sense of almost any book just by reading the first few pages—often it’s not necessary to even go that far. But because I wanted to give the Giller winner the benefit of the doubt (despite the clichéd native speech patterns and a misogynist reference to Mother Nature as “one angry sslut” (p.2) I continued reading. As I read, I found myself vaguely interested in Boyden’s two central characters---a comatose uncle and his drifting niece as well as their separate but interrelated stories. The novel’s stylistic concept of alternating chapters with these two narrative voices and perspectives is also initially somewhat interesting. However, the story does rely heavily on an extreme situation to elicit this interest. Additionally, very quickly, I got the distinct impression that Boyden’s incorporation of native culture felt deliberate and at times “in your face” rather than fluid and natural. For instance, his criticisms of white culture, even when indirect, are never subtle. Here’s one glaring example: “…they’ve gone from living on the land in teepees….hunting, trapping, trading…to living in clapboard houses pushing squeaky grocery carts up and down aisles filled with overpriced and unhealthy food…diabetes, obesity and cancer plague our community” (36-37). Later, the niece says after handing over ten dollars to a homeless “elder” on the street “Spend it wise…booze is the white man’s poison, not ours” (53). I don’t disagree with Boyden’s assessment or his statements because they’re unforgivably true. White society deserves all the criticism it gets (and more) for its treatment of native people. But because the criticism becomes such a driving force in the novel it’s as though Boyden’s confused his genres. So instead of being told a story, the reader feels as though they are being given a lecture. Essentially, his novel can be seen as a didactic vehicle for retaliation. In another situation, perhaps this would not be such an issue---but this is the Giller winner. It must be held to a high standard. Equally if not more disturbing is Boyden’s status as a very marginal Métis (only one-fourth of his background is native). Boyden didn’t even grow up “native”. He is from affluent Willowdale, Ontario yet he exploits his negligible status to take his stance and execute his passive-aggressive mission. Also, by using the two dissimilar voices of his central characters to tell his story, he effectively seizes the voices of all natives---basically telling us that this is the way young and old, male and female, rural and city natives think, feel and speak. And for this reader at least, it’s the speaking or talking that becomes most irritating and creates the sensation of cultural appropriation of voice. Phrases such as “Ever losers, them” (54) coming from the mouth of a young educated native female sound unlikely and contrived. I’ve gone to school with many pure-blooded native people and had native neighborhood friends and not one of them spoke like that. In high school, I attended a Catholic boarding school where a number of young native girls from the Moosenee and James Bay area had come and none of them spoke in this manner either. That said, Boyden really should have rethought his insinuation of so much of this stereotypical and archaic native talk and stuck with a more mainstream dialogue and narration. By doing so, he may have succeeded in more effectively conveying his message through connotation. It should also be noted that the oppressiveness of Boyden’s sermonizing never allows the reader to become fully engaged or emotionally invested in either of his characters. So while I know I likely should have, I just didn’t care much about either of them. Compounding this situation are two other factors the first of these being that one character’s story is significantly more interesting than the other. The second aspect I gradually began to notice and became increasingly impatient with is Boyden’s inclusion of a lot of extraneous details (actually entire chapters) which rather than adding to the story’s depth or interest level just drag it along. When I began reading Through Black Spruce, I was excited and fully expecting to love it, or at least, admire the hell out of it. After all, this novel had won Canada’s highest literary award. Now, I find myself obliged (I did spend thirty-four dollars for it), annoyed and bored at the prospect of finishing this Giller winner.
Date published: 2009-01-27
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Another great book by this author! Through Black Spruce is the second novel by Canadian author Joseph Boyden, and I loved it as much at Three Day Road, his first book. The events in Through Black Spruce are told through the eyes of Will, a Cree bush pilot with a particular fondness for alcohol, and his niece, Annie. Will lies in a coma in a hospital bed in Moose Factory, with Annie keeping vigil at his bedside. Gradually the stories of both their recent lives unfold, and they are both fascinating and treacherous in their own ways. The contrast between the worlds of native traditional hunting and trapping in the northern bush areas of Ontario, and the sleazy “party” world of Manhattan’s fashion model industry make for a suspenseful read, and found myself needing to know how it would all be tied together. I love the clear, descriptive, no-nonsense, writing style of Joseph Boyden’s first two novels. I found the reader became very involved with the characters, and really cared what happened to them. I look forward to another novel by this fine author.
Date published: 2009-01-11
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Love this book This is a wonderful book, but like another reveiwer mentioned...the ending is too "neat". I liked the ending, but believe the author could have said more with a different ending.
Date published: 2008-12-28
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Fantastic Read! Through Black Spruce is the story of Will Bird, a bush pilot who is lying in the hospital in a coma. It is also the story of Annie, his niece, who has just returned home from an emotional and dangerous search in Manhattan for her missing sister. As the two reflect upon their lives and the events leading up to the present moment, they reveal to us their shared and separate histories. Histories which touch on the past challenges for Aboriginal people living in Canada as well as the many obstacles faced today. By entwining their stories, Boyden reveals a tale that is at once heartbreaking and beautiful. And although we are consistently reminded of the dark realities of contemporary Aboriginal life, he manages to maintain a sense of hope in his characters. Boyden’s gift is his ability to tell stories which resonate with the harsh truths of life, while remaining positive about a future based upon the strength obtained through adversity. With vivid geographical descriptions of Canada’s rural north, his novels provide a uniquely Aboriginal Canadian perspective on the events as they unfold. Although they are works of fiction, they are authentic in that they speak the truth and resonate with Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal readers alike.
Date published: 2008-12-16
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A Great choice for the 2008 Giller Through Black Spruce by Joseph Boyden is the 2008 Giller prize winner. Boyden tells the story of Will Bird and his niece Annie Bird. Each chapter the narrator switches from Will to Annie; the stories move from northern Canada to the runways of Montreal and New York; two settings so different yet with so many similarities. Part way through this book I was thinking that it did not compare to The Three Day Road BUT by the end I beleive that Through Black Spruce is as good as Boyden's first novel, just set in a different time. The novel holds the readers interest and keeps them reading; the plot moves along fairly quickly and the main characters are likable and the reader cares what happens to them. Through Black Spruce is another book which has the theme of the importance of family ties. Well written and well worth reading!!! An excellent choice for the Giller Prize. I am eagerly waiting for the next Joseph Boyden Novel.
Date published: 2008-12-03
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfect This was an amazing book from start to finish, I had trouble putting it down. Joseph Boyden is an incredibly talented storyteller.
Date published: 2008-11-28
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Very Enjoyable, yet Flawed Will Bird and Annie are truly powerful characters whose insights, thoughts, behaviours and actions all feel very real. I'm not going to waste your time describing the plot (just read the chapters synopsis). The narration is excellent and very well written. There are a few major flaws that took away one star (and made me seriously contemplate giving it a 3, my true assessment is likely around 3.5). The ending feels too clean and tidy. It felt unrealistic considering the sequence of events that preceded it. The sections that took place in New York seemed trite and fake in comparison to beautifully written sections that take place in Northern Canada. Boyden justifies this by saying that he wanted New York to feel fake and phony compared to the real Canadian Northern wilderness. I think this is a flawed argument. Just because New York is heavily industrialized and commercialized is does not mean the city's description has to be to less convincing. Also, some of Will's long stretches alone in the wilderness were teetering on boring, but Boyden quickly switches up narrators before this gets to be a serious issue. Nonetheless, this book was a very enjoyable read. The beginning hooked me right away and middle sections were great (Annie's a great character and helped get through the less than stellar New York sections). The ending however left me somewhat disappointed. not terrible by any stretch. But could have been much better. Overall I'd like to congratulate Joseph Boyden on winning the Giller and I look forward to reading his future works.
Date published: 2008-11-23
Rated 5 out of 5 by from A deserving winner It's not often that I agree with the winner of the Giller. This is an exception. Through Black Spruce is a terrific read, and the sort of book that 20 years ago wouldn't have been published or written in Canada.
Date published: 2008-11-20
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Compelling Annie and her uncle share this story, each telling of the tale of the same time in their lives, the year Annie's sister is missing. Annie is trying to discover what has happened to her sister, and dealing with her own feelings of confusion over living in the city, or returning home to the rez, while her uncle is trying to survive the motorcyle gang that believes he is a snitch. Touching, heartbreaking, and a page turner. Boyden again manages to create a world few us know, but after reading this feel we understand a little better.
Date published: 2008-09-21