Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention.
Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn’t want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission.
This book is a highly impactful and emotional story of five residential school survivors. It has won numerous awards, including Canada Reads (2022), Governor General’s Literary Award (2020), and the First Novel Award (2021).
Through the years, we follow the impact of trauma on each of the children and the difficulty they face overcoming the burdens inflicted on them while at the residential school.
Multiple timelines and perspectives are present, providing an overall sense of the depth and course of intergenerational trauma.
Moments of joy and humour are also present throughout, as are deep friendships and relationships. I especially loved the bond formed between Clara, Mariah and her dear pup, John Lennon.
I highly recommend this book; however, please read the content warnings linked below beforehand. I also suggest reading this book with a notepad at your side to jot down reflections along the way.
This Book in Three Words
- Residential Schools
The time between Clara and Mariah in the woods; the relationship that forms between them and the strength and guidance of the ancestors in Clara’s journey.
Writing Style: 4.5
Plot Development: 4.5
Numerical Rating: 5 stars