Franklin Starlight never knew his mother and the few encounters he's had with his alcoholic father left him hurt and disappointed.
He's been raised on a small ranch in northern British Columbia by "the old man", who's taught him everything he knows about ranching and wilderness survival. He's also taught him about integrity, self-esteem and the qualities of good character.
At sixteen, Franklin's more a man then most.
When he gets a call from his father he's tempted to ignore it, but this time it's different. His father is dying of liver disease and wants Frank to help him travel to remote ridge forty miles out in the wilderness. Once there he wants "a warrior's death", buried sitting upright in the ground facing east "so he can follow the rising sun across the sky to the Happy Hunting Grounds."
As it's his father's dying wish, Frank feels duty-bound to oblige him. Besides, he's longing to know more about his family history including how he came to be brought up by the "the old man".
So begins the journey, from a small mill town into the wilderness, Frank walking and leading a horse his father rides because he is too weak to walk.
As each mile passes Franklin begins to know his father as the man slowly divulges his personal history, Franklin's history.
In Medicine Walk, Richard Wagamese has created a story that resonates on many levels. There's the portrayal of a Spartan way of life defined by hard manual labour, loyalty and integrity as conveyed in the characters of Franklin and "the old man".
Then there's the life Franklin's father has lived - one of never facing up to your demons and using alcohol to keep them at bay.
It's a story of the extremes of human nature - of doing the right thing no matter how tough and painful it is, and doing everything to avoid it.
Wagamese' dialogue is authentic, his characters complex, and his story is brutal in it's truth.