As it’s now October, I decided to read a series of spooky books to set the tone for the month. This was my first choice, and I had very high hopes for it. Billed as a ‘Native Gothic Novel’ I was interested in reading it especially considering the author himself is Ojibwa.
Definitely a topic close to my heart, and one that fits with my intention of checking out more diverse reads.
Was I ever in for disappointment.
This book centers around two main characters: Tiffany, a teenage resident of Otter Lake, Ontario, and Pierre L’Errant, a mysterious European man who comes to stay with Tiffany and her family.
The story idea was interesting, but it felt rather disjointed for most of the novel. Eventually things came together at the end, but it was ultimately unsatisfying.
Tiffany’s tale was the usual teenage coming-of-age: she feels her family is unfair to her, she’s super invested in having a boyfriend, and she’s dealing with the absence of her mother. Her story also touched upon issues related specifically to being Native: the reaction of her father when she starts dating a white boy, her boyfriend’s abuse of her status card, and the loss of the Anishinaabe language as native speakers become fewer and fewer. These points were really interesting and well done, but Tiffany herself wasn’t a particularly likeable protagonist.
She didn’t really care about school even though her greatest wish is to leave the reservation and see the world. She kind of abandons her friends in favour of her boyfriend. And she’s always bizarrely rude to Pierre when all she really knows about him is that he’s a paying guest in her home.
Pierre L’Errant’s tale, on the other hand was very interesting. Formerly known as Owl, he is also Anishinaabe, though he hasn’t been home in centuries. Fighting his very nature he returns home with a very specific purpose. The flashbacks of his past are the most compelling and interesting parts of this entire book.
While I think that the author portrayed a very realistic teenager and family dynamics, and the two main characters come together in believable ways, I think the book would have done better had it focused on one or the other.
A tale of Tiffany dealing with the difficulties of her life, or a tale of how Owl became Pierre L’Errant would have been far more enjoyable in my opinion. As it was, my favourite character ended up being Granny Ruth!
Not the best spooky read, but then I don’t think that was its intention.
Regardless, I think I still would have been disappointed.