Through Black Spruce, by Joseph Boyden, is a book that has been of interest to me for some time. About a year ago, I read his other book, Three Day Road, and I thought it was a pretty good read. I held off reading this book, though, because my book club decided last June that we wanted to read it...this month.
The storyline is unique: an aboriginal man (Will) is lying in a hospital bed in a coma; his niece (Annie) visits him regularly and she is encouraged by the nurse (who is also Annie's friend), to talk to her uncle in order to help bring him back into consciousness. Though Annie initially feels awkward about this, she begins to whisper stories into her uncle's ear, about her life and the life of her sister. Alternate chapters detail the unconscious man's own story, as he thinks back over a period of his life to this point - it's almost as if he's telling his niece his story, albeit in his head. I'm probably not explaining this very well.
I don't always (often?) understand why books earn their critical acclaim or why they win some of the big awards. But I totally get why this book won the Giller. It is a beautifully written, poignant story. I felt touched by it almost from the beginning, and my affection for the characters and the story only grew throughout. It's the story about two people's lives, true, but it's also a story about a unique culture, about a northern aboriginal community, about friendships and enmity, about love, and about intricate and intertwined family relationships. I enjoyed both Will's and Annie's stories, though I was most pulled in to her story - I came to love her character and her involvement with the man she viewed as her protector, and I could hardly wait until the next chapter about her. I will say no more because I would love for you to read this book and tell me what you think of it.
Boyden is a gifted writer, and I certainly recommend Through Black Spruce.