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Through Black Spruce Hardcover – International Edition, September 9, 2008

4.3 out of 5 stars 56 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Following up on the success of Three Day Road, Boyden delivers the powerful story of former bush pilot and Cree native Will Bird. The novel opens with Will in a coma, with his niece Annie, who just returned from an eight-month excursion in search of her sister, by his side. Narrated by Will and Annie, the story backtracks to tell of Will's fight to keep his bush-country Indian life alive and protected while he suppresses painful childhood memories (and befriends an old bear). Annie, a skillful hunter and animal trapper, dictates her escapades after rushing off to New York City in pursuit of her sister, Suzanne, a model who has shacked up with a member of the narcotics-smuggling Netmakers family. As Will struggles to survive and Annie reintegrates into the isolated bush, the two stories dovetail as the Netmakers cross paths with Will. Though the incongruously melodramatic denouement doesn't fit with the richly textured narrative preceding it, the novel as a whole is an intelligent, multilayered accomplishment, and well worth reading. (Mar.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


'Joseph Boyden's novel is, simply, beautiful: you will lose yourself in the richness of its prose and the ever-deepening puzzles it inveigles you into. THROUGH BLACK SPRUCE is fluent, involving fiction, and as good an advertisement as any for unforgiving wilderness living.' -- Tim Teeman THE TIMES 'This complex and interesting novel is all about strong family bonds.' HOT STARS 'a remarkable view into a lost world dismantled so brutally by the white 'wemestikushu'... Boyden guides us through customs, mythologies and rituals that attend life in the bush.' TLS 'mesmerising. In the wild, dreams are prophetic and spiritual truths revealed... his characters are most moving when revelations occur in small, quite moments.' -- Julie Wheelwright THE INDEPENDENT 'It is a powerful novel of place and the ties that bind families... A fine achievement, Through Black Spruce is extraordinary.' IRISH EXAMINER 'love, betrayal and loss in the wild and frozen Canadian wilderness. A strangely haunting read.' CHOICE 'Alternating between life at its most elemental and most decadent, Boyden's tale skilfully reflects the Indians' struggle to embrace modern society.' -- Anthony Gardner MAIL ON SUNDAY --This text refers to an alternate Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Viking; First Edition edition (September 9, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670063630
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670063635
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (56 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,170,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Richard Pittman on December 25, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Through Black Spruce was chosen as the winner of this year's Giller Prize, the top Canadian book award. The panel of 3 that chose it included Margaret Attwood and Colm Toibin (IMPAC Award winner). I hoped this meant I was in safe hands with the recommendation.

I had nothing to worry about. I found Boyden to be an excellent storyteller.

Annie, a young Cree woman from very far northern Ontario (look Moosonee up on the map) has returned to her home town to escape recent events. She gets into the habit of visiting her coma ridden uncle at the hospital for several hours each night.

At this point two story lines emerge. Every second chapter is narrated by Annie as she relates her recent experiences to her uncle. She wonders if he can hear her.

Every other chapter is narrated by Uncle Will as we discover the sequence of events that lead to his current state.

Both storylines are very different and both are compelling. It is difficult to decide which one I liked better. The stories are fluid and both action packed.

Annie, who has lived near Moosonee all her life goes to Toronto with a friend for a vacation with the hope of finding information about her missing sister, Suzanne. Annie and her family are very concerned that Suzanne has met an untimely end. Suzanne is very beautiful and they know from magazines that she has done high fashion modelling. She left Moosonee with an unsavoury character and has certainly gotten into some osrt of trouble.

Annie becomes obsessed with finding her sister and ends up becoming entwined in the world of high fashion and drugs. She also does some modelling and becomes very involved with a world of privilege in Montreal and New York.
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Format: Hardcover
Every time I go to Canada, I buy a Canadian book. This one appealed because of the title and the awards that it won. Would it deliver or not? The answer is a resounding YES on delivery. As I said, I could hardly put it down although I work full time where I don't have time to read. Boyden's prose is outstanding and there was enough Native dialog and information to give me a flavor without beating me over the head. It was at once a mystery and a tretis on life and relationships. Thought provoking with characters that you cared about without feeling he was manipulating your emotions. He is also superb at finding and keeping a beautiful balance within the story. Bravo!
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
An incredible follow-up to Joseph Boyden's powerful novel Three Day Road. Fans of that novel and readers new to the works of Joseph Boyden will be similarly impressed and blown over.

Through Black Spruce tells the story of two people, each on their own journey, searching for forgiveness, a sense of identity and belonging, and ultimately redemption. It begins with one of the more gripping openings in recent memory and doesn't ease its grip on the reader until the final page.

It definitely deserves the Giller Award it won, as well as every other award that will without a doubt come its way.

Do yourself a favor: get this book!
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Format: Hardcover
"...We may think the past as something we don't need. But that's not true - not to my mind." *)

History is front and centre of Joseph Boyden's second novel, "Through Black Spruce". Loosely a follow-up to his first, Three Day Road - the story of two young Cree trackers fighting in World War I - this story looks at history in a very personal, intimate way. Will and Annie Bird, the two narrative voices, are the son and granddaughter of Xavier Bird, one of the three central characters in the earlier book. Distinct in their approaches to their individual story, told in alternating chapters, they are also intricately connected. As the two "confessions" to each other unfold, they increasingly interweave into one multi-layered tapestry.

Will, an experienced trapper and bush pilot, lies in a coma in the hospital of Moosonee, a James Bay community in northern Ontario. Very soon we realize that only one of two possible events can have landed him in this state: another crash with his small bush plane or another big fight with Marius, the bully and controlling local drug lord and prominent member of the Netmaker family. The Birds and the Netmaker families have more than one reasons to be enemies and, recently, much had to do with Will's other niece, the stunningly beautiful Suzanne, who took off with Marius' brother; both have disappeared without a trace since. Annie, recently returned from several months down south, sits by her uncle's side and, speaking softly to his ear, hopes to somehow connect with him and to bring him back to the waking world.

While in his deep sleep, Will's mind is in a state of active dreaming, looking back on his life.
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Format: Paperback
Joseph Boyden's THROUGH BLACK SPRUCE won the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize a few years back and I had read good things about it, so when I found it at a local library sale last month I snatched it up. It starts out well, a tale of two alternating voices: one of them Will Bird, former daredevil bush pilot from Moosonee in far northern Ontario, now badly broken from a savage beating and barely clinging to life in a deep coma; the other voice that of his niece, Annie Bird, sitting vigil at his hospital bedside, telling him of her recent travels and travails in the big cities of Toronto, Montreal and New York, searching for her missing sister, Suzanne, a beautiful and successful model who got mixed up with drugs and pushers. Whew! Long setup sentence that, huh? The story alludes to the effects of the forced attendance of Native American children at a local residential school run by brutal Jesuits - a practice which tore families apart and attempted to destroy a language and way of life. There are also bitter blood feuds between the Native American Cree families involved, as well as beautiful descriptions of the hard and unforgiving wilderness country and small towns around the Moose River and James Bay and the fading tribal culture of hunting and fishing. It's also a tale of love, loss and struggles to build new lives, for both Will and Annie.

So it's certainly got all the elements of a great read. The problem is it simply goes on and on a bit too long, to the point where it becomes almost tedious, and you wish Boyden would just cut to the chase and maybe the point. But he never really does. The story simply winds slowly down to a conclusion that is rather anticlimactic. It's a kind of happily-ever-after ending, but one I found a bit unrealistic and even disappointing.
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