I have waited to read Joseph Boyden’s Three Day Road ever since it was first published in 2005. The reviews intrigued me, but I never took the opportunity until now to finally read this incredible first novel.
It is set in the early 1900s, just when the British Empire sent a call to Canada and its other colonies to send young able-bodied men to sacrifice themselves in a terrible war. The story centers on Niska and her nephew, Xavier Bird. Niska is a wise bush Indian who escaped from the residential school as a young girl to live as her elders once did. She takes Xavier from that same school as a young boy and teaches him everything he needs to know to become a great hunter. Xavier and his talkative friend Elijah, spend summers together with Niska, learning the old ways. Too soon, these young hunters travel to Toronto where they enlist in the army and are sent to the front.
Throughout the book, the story is told by Xavier while he is fighting the enemy and by Niska surviving the in the wilderness. It is a heart-wrenching, graphic story of how terrible the “Great War” must have been. It is a sad but powerful story of an auntie trying to reclaim the broken life of her only nephew when he returns from that war. The chapters alternate between Xaviers’ telling of the war and of his friend Elijah, and of Niska's story of her life in the north.
The story-telling is amazing and has given me a personal glimpse into two of the great tragedies of our Canadian history. Three Day Road is a must-read!