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text 2017-02-20 01:16
Medicine Walk - authentic, complex, brutal in it's truth


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.





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review 2015-06-21 15:25
Surprised by all the positive reviews.
Medicine Walk - Richard Wagamese

Despite all the positive reviews I couldn't quite understand the love people have for this. The premise sounded very interesting: a young Native (although on the cover flap it says Indian) man is summoned by his father (who is dying) to learn about his father, his own past, and why his father essentially abandoned him to be pretty much raised by a white man. We follow these two on their journey and learn along with Franklin (who has skills in surviving and living off the land) about his father and his past.


It's my understanding that this may be at least somewhat autobiographical in nature since the author had been in several foster homes and eventually adopted by a family. And yet, I couldn't get into this. Initially the book seemed promising (if a bit confusing by referring to "the kid," "the old man," etc. and rather sparse in terms of who these people were and why we were dropped into the book like this. But it just dragged on and on. Normally historical fiction (especially if it's based off the author's personal experiences) are works I really enjoy, but this definitely wasn't one of them.


The life story of Eldon (Franklin's father) didn't really bring any sort of emotional response from me. I certainly can't identify with one of these men's experiences, but the author didn't really do his job in getting me to care to find to find out more about Eldon, why we needed to know what happened next, how this would affect Franklin, what was Franklin supposed to get out of it, etc.


I'm not sure if my perception is being affected by the fact that this is the first book by Wagamese that I've read. I've had his 'Indian Horse' on my list of books to read for awhile, but this popped up in my library and I snatched it up. I'll still read 'Indian Horse' but I'm not sure I'll be as eager.


Recommend the library for this one.

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