Desparately Seeking Suzanne

Through Black Spruce, Joseph Boyden, 2008

Beaver and Trapper

This second novel is the winner of the prestigious Scotiabank Giller Prize. It is the story of Cree indian Will Bird, retired bush pilot and his tomboy niece Annie Bird who supports herself trapping. They live near Moosonee on the Moose River near the Hudson Bay in Northern Ontario. These Birds are descendants of the Birds of Boyden’s first novel.

Northern Ontario Parking Lot

Annie travels to her trapping camps on her snowmobile which she maintains herself. The local bootleggers turned drug dealers are the Netmakers headed by oldest brother Marius. Younger brother Gus Netmaker has run away with Annie’s sister Suzanne and neither has been heard from for months. Marius thinks the Birds are talking to the police about the drug traffic and beats Will up as a warning. Pictures of Suzanne start showing up in magazines and catalogs indicating that she may be making a living modeling. Annie sets out for Toronto looking for Suzanne. She talks to other Indians she meets in Toronto and encounters a mute Indian, Gordon, called Painted Tongue. When a white man attacks Annie and attempts to rape her, Gordon, who has secretly been following her, kills the man and saves Annie. Gordon becomes Annie’s unofficial body guard accompanying her everywhere. Annie and Gordon go to Montreal where Annie meets some models who knew Suzanne including Violet. Violet invites Annie to a party where she meets a Mohawk DJ, Butterfoot, and becomes his lover. When Butterfoot and Violet travel to NYC for work, Butterfoot smuggles Annie and Gordon across the border with him. In NY Annie starts modeling and is invited to stay in a lavish Manhattan apartment by super model Soleil. It seems Gus and other bikers have been supplying drugs to the models. Annie becomes an accepted member of the in crowd welcome at any club in Manhattan. She takes drugs when offered at the parties. Suzanne never shows up. I preferred his first novel.

Moose River

Three Day Road, Joseph Boyden, 2005

Canoe in Northern Ontario

Boyden’s first novel is based on stories he heard growing up. Two Cree men fight in WWI as snipers. Niska a traditional medicine women paddles her canoe three days to pick up her nearest living relative Elijah, returning from the war, but finds instead her nephew Xavier who has returned. Xavier is addicted to morphine and he still has a small supply. On the return canoe journey, Xavier’s supply runs out and Niska uses traditional methods including a sweat house she builds beside the river in an attempt to save Xavier. Unforgettable images.

Sweat Lodge