Medicine walkby Richard Wagamese

5 Stars

Publisher: Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, Eldon. He’s sixteen years old and has had the most fleeting of relationships with the man. The rare moments they’ve shared haunt and trouble Frank, but he answers the call, a son’s duty to a father. He finds Eldon decimated after years of drinking, dying of liver failure in a small town flophouse. Eldon asks his son to take him into the mountains, so he may be buried in the traditional Ojibway manner.

What ensues is a journey through the rugged and beautiful backcountry, and a journey into the past, as the two men push forward to Eldon’s end. From a poverty-stricken childhood, to the Korean War, and later the derelict houses of mill towns, Eldon relates both the desolate moments of his life and a time of redemption and love and in doing so offers Frank a history he has never known, the father he has never had, and a connection to himself he never expected.

A novel about love, friendship, courage, and the idea that the land has within it powers of healing, Medicine Walk reveals the ultimate goodness of its characters and offers a deeply moving and redemptive conclusion. Wagamese’s writing soars and his insight and compassion are matched by his gift of communicating these to the reader.

My Review: As I finished this book, I wanted to head to the bookstore and find his other ones. This is a story that is going to haunt me for quite awhile.

This story encompasses so much. It gives details of the lives of Canada’s Native people, the life of an uneducated labourer, the effect of war on a young soldier as well as the hurt and betrayal of family members.

Franklin Starlight, is a sixteen year old Native teen who was adopted by “The Old Man” when he was a little boy. He was taught the value of work and he found satisfaction in farm work and his joy in horses. He left school at an early age, as it was not his thing. He never knew his father or mother. Over the years he visited his father, Eldon, but he was an alcoholic and those visits usually ended quickly and badly. One day, Franklin is called to visit his father and he went because it was his duty. He finds his alcoholic father in a small flophouse, dying of liver failure. Eldon asks his son to take him into the mountains, and bury him in the traditional Ojibway ways. “I need you to bury me facing east. Sitting up, in the warrior way.”

This began the journey both up the mountain with his father, and in learning the story of his father’s life as well as what happened with his mother. Eldon tells his son about his life history, his happiness and sacrifices made along the way. And we see both father and son connecting, for the first time. This was an extremely sad story but I could not stop reading. Eldon’s life was not an easy one and he carried scars from the battles he had endured. As Franklin buried him he told him “the was is over”. An extremely emotional read that was so well written that you could not put it down. The descriptions of the scenery as well as the toll the illness took on Eldon made you feel like you were there. This is a novel about courage and love, and redemption.

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