I realized after I posted my review last week that it was Indigenous Peoples Day, too late to post a review of one of the three books by indigenous authors I have in my review queue. But! We shall celebrate indigenous authors all year long, not just on Indigenous Peoples Day, starting with this multi-award winning book. This is from the teen section of my library.
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline. Dancing Cat Books/Cormorant Books, 2017. 978-1770864863
In the not-too-distant, post-apocalyptic future, most people have stopped dreaming, and the lack of dreams makes them go absolutely crazy, to the point where society has fallen apart. Only Natives retain their ability to dream, and whites have found a way to harvest this ability from their bone marrow in a gruesome and deadly process. The need to escape this has profoundly shaped young Frenchie’s life. When the story opens, he is just remembering his brother giving himself up to save Frenchie, their parents having been lost long before.
As Frenchie – by this point a young teen – struggles to make his way to safety, he finds a band of young Aboriginals being led by one adult man, Miig, who serves as a father figure to them all (and tells them eventually about his lost husband), as well as the respected elder Nokomis Minerva. Together, the two adults teach the kids hunting and camping skills, as well as precious words of language. Gradually, we hear the difficult “coming-to” stories of all the members of the group, each character distinct and memorable from the young lovers to the adorable little girl. (Though I didn’t write them down, they are also from several different nations, even if they all share the same valuable ability to dream.) But even this precarious existence is under threat, as there are people who will do anything for the reward for finding more people whose marrow might be harvested.
This story moved with an unrelenting pacing and extreme emotional moments that reminded me of The Hunger Games. But though there is painful loss, there is also a hopeful ending, with a welcomed pregnancy and reunions. Try this original spin on post-apocalyptic survival and take your Native reading out of the historical with this compelling and thought-provoking book.
Cherie Dimaline is Métis and the Aboriginal Writer in Residence at the Toronto Public Library.