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The Streetlight Reader

Just another 23 year old from Toronto who enjoys reading Adult fiction, YA Fiction and Non-Fiction. Okay I read anything I think is worth reading :).

Book Review: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Indian Horse - Richard Wagamese


Cover Gushing Worthiness: The cover of Indian Horse truly captures the essence of this book. I think each image captures a specific point in Saul’s life. As you read the book, the cover starts to make more sense. It literally is so Canadian and in a good way(:.

Review: I first heard about Indian Horse when I was in the car with my dad listening to CBC Radio's Canada Reads Turf Wars.As I heard an excerpt from the book I knew I wanted to read it. Ever since I was in High School I’ve been interested in the rights and issues surrounding Canada’s First Nations people. Almost all the essays I've written in my High School and University Canadian history classes have been about First Nations people or Immigrants who have faced racism in this country. I've felt strongly about the plight of the First Nations people and I’m so glad Wagamese chose to explore one of the most brutal and appalling parts of Canada’s history because it is a story that needs to be told and heard by all.

The story of Indian Horse is Saul’s story from the Ojibway beginnings to his rediscovery of Hockey. In between is his painful story of losing his family and being taken to St. Jerome’s Residential school which is described as “Hell on earth.” It is also where Saul discovers a safe haven in Hockey, but at a painful price to his own identity. This year the only other book that stirred up so many emotions in me wasBefore I Fallby Lauren Oliver because it dealt with an issue which is very close to my heart, but this book intensified the very same emotions. My heart literally ached when I read some of the passages and it was painful to the point where I had to put the book down and take a deep breath and get back into it. I was so overwhelmed with emotion because of the injustice suffered by the First Nations People in a country which technically belongs to them. What makes me sad is that without stories like Indian Horse future generations will probably never know about the horrors of the Residential School system.

Another aspect of this book which stirred my interest was the way we define our relationship to sport. I don’t watch Hockey, so I’m not familiar with most of the events surrounding players. However I’m familiar with events that take place in the world of Football (Soccer) and last year the sport was plagued with so many issues in regards to racial abuse against players and other plays throwing around racial taunts. ReadingIndian Horse reminded me of those issues again, especially this passage when Saul who starts to play for a town hockey team composed of White children and when he goes for a game this is what is being said. It really makes you wonder if people still believe a game belongs to only one group of people.

What I’m the best they got.
I know. That’s why they don’t want you to play. The parents of other players want their kids to play.
They do play.
Yes. But they’re not on the ice as much as you are…
It’s because I’m Indian isn’t it?
Do they hate me?
They don’t hate you, Saul.
Well, what then?
They think it’s their game
Is it?
It’s God’s game.

Saul’s voice in Indian Horse is beautiful and tragic. His narrative just flowed so smooth and eloquently. As a reader you rooted for Saul every step of the way. You experienced his highs, his lows, the injustice and the blatant racism. The most upsetting was his despair. What do you do when everything you know shatters into a million little pieces? The despair came a long because as a reader you wanted Saul to succeed so bad; there was almost a sense of desperation surrounding you as you flipped through Saul’s story. The most heart wrenching part for me during the whole story was when Saul relates his Residential School experience. Its hard sometimes to believe humanity is capable of such despicable acts. It just made you wonder how people can engage in behaviour just in order to destroy a culture of such an ancient people?

The environmental landscape Wagamese painted of Ontario was mesmerizing. The forests, lakes and rivers came alive in way that I had never experienced before. It showed how First Nations People were one in with nature and that to me was truly beautiful. It made you appreciate your surroundings in a way that I can’t really put into words properly.

I really wanted Indian Horse to win Canada Reads 2013 and I was disappointed when it didn’t, but I’m glad it won the People’s Choice poll.

Overall Indian Horse is one of the best books I’ve read so far this year and it has become one of my favourites. It’s a powerful story written beautifully. You will come to treasure Saul Indian Horse’s voice in this book and his brutal honestly in regards to his life. If anyone wants to understand how First Nations people have been treated in Canada, I strongly encourage you to pick up this book. I will definitely pick up other books by Wagamese for sure.

This is one of my favourite quotes from the book. It’s said by Saul’s Grandmother
We need mystery. Creator in her wisdom knew this. Mystery fills us with awe and wonder. They are the foundations of humility, and humility,and humility grandson, is the foundation of all learning.

My Rating: 5/5

Would I recommend it? A Thousand Times Yes