Book Review: Crow Winter by Karen McBride

This year I am attempting the reading challenge of our city’s library. One of the themes is to read a book written by an indigenous author. I had seen on Twitter an extremely positive mention of Crow Winter by Karen McBride so when I saw a copy on the library shelf, I picked it up quickly.

Genre: Fiction, Contemporary, Indigenous

Blurb:

Nanabush. A name that has a certain weight on the tongue—a taste. Like lit sage in a windowless room or aluminum foil on a metal filling.

Trickster. Storyteller. Shape-shifter.An ancient troublemaker with the power to do great things, only he doesn’t want to put in the work.

Since coming home to Spirit Bear Point First Nation, Hazel Ellis has been dreaming of an old crow. He tells her he’s here to help her, save her. From what, exactly? Sure, her dad’s been dead for almost two years and she hasn’t quite reconciled that grief, but is that worth the time of an Algonquin demigod?

Soon Hazel learns that there’s more at play than just her own sadness and doubt. The quarry that’s been lying unsullied for over a century on her father’s property is stirring the old magic that crosses the boundaries between this world and the next. With the aid of Nanabush, Hazel must unravel a web of deceit that, if left untouched, could destroy her family and her home on both sides of the Medicine Wheel.

My thoughts:

I did not think that I would enjoy this novel as much as I did! There are moments when the writing is so exquisite that I had to savour the sentences. I came to empathise with Hazel Ellis, the main character, as I read of her struggling to overcome her grief. In addition to being a beautiful story, Crow Winter showed me a part of the Anishnaabe tradition. The folklore of the tribe is woven into the story and the learning, for me, was integrated with my enjoyment of the story.

Crow Winter is a story about grief and how it is overcome. The grief mentioned by the writer, however, is not one dimensional. We read of Hazel’s grief for her father; but we also see the grief experienced by a group of people at the loss of traditional lands, as well as a culture which is slowly being forgotten by the younger generation. The novel does give a message of hope, though, on the grief experienced on all levels.

During the novel, the main character (Hazel Ellis) grows as a person. She finds the way to heal and, while healing, to connect with her ancestral traditions. It is for this reason that I say the story is one of hope – hope that the younger generation will find a way to connect with the culture historically practiced by their people. Through the character of Hazel, the writer also suggests that turning back to one’s roots does make a person stronger and more whole.

Crow Winter is a story that resonates with your soul. It is an #ownvoices story in that the main character finds the strength to speak out and express what is inside of her being. This diverse read shows the reader the beauty of a culture indigenous to Canada.

I give this novel ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 5 stars with no reservation.

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2020

(This novel was the 7th novel in my book pledge for 2020)

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