Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Review: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Indian Horse Read: Dec. 7-17, 2015
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Pages: 221
Genres: historical, Canada

Synopsis from Goodreads:

"Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows.

With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement.

Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man. Drawing on his great-grandfather’s mystical gift of vision, Saul Indian Horse comes to recognize the influence of everyday magic on his own life. In this wise and moving novel, Richard Wagamese shares that gift of magic with readers as well."


This story retells the adventures of Saul Indian Horse, an Ojibwa kid, who pretty much lost his entire family, and was found by some people and taken to a residential school. Then his life becomes worse (no surprise there), and he starts to isolate himself from the other kids. One day, a miracle in the form of a hockey loving priest presented himself to Saul, and from there, their friendship blossomed. Saul found a beauty in hockey, and proceeded to find ways to play it. Since he was too young to play in an actual game, he asked to clean the ice at first, an excuse to wake up early in the morning to practice. Later, he found that he was gifted with a special sight that allowed him to observe the game, and predict what will happen next. He quickly became a well known hockey player.

I confess: I only picked this book up because I was promised bonus marks from my English teacher, and you can never have too many bonus marks. This type of book is definitely not a genre you would ever see me picking up to read of my own volition, but I figured that since I love reading so much, I might as well read something that will earn me some bonus marks. I don't even have to write a paper or do an assignment on really...I could have not read it, and my English teacher wouldn't be the wiser. In case you were wondering...I DID read it though.


Another confession: I was close to DNF-ing this book. The first forty or so pages nearly bored me to death, and I skimmed through most of it. There was so. Much. Information. I was absolutely overwhelmed. I'm the kind of reader who needs action to be entertained...and the first forty pages...Had. No. Action. maybe I exaggerated a teensy point still stands: not much happened. And I was bored.

After the fifty page mark, things finally started happening. I was getting the action I was pining for. Unfortunately, this action were the horrors that occurred within residential schools. Now, this was a Christian school, and being a Christian myself, you can imagine my shock when I read about all the dreadful things that happened to these poor kids under their care. It was horrifying. Suffice to say, this was when things finally started picking up, and I was hooked to the story. Fully invested, if you will.

The good news is that once I passed the peak of the great giant mountain that was the first forty pages of endless boredom, I really enjoyed the book. This book caused me to go into the much dreaded reading slump, but once I started getting into it, I went as far as neglecting my homework and pushing aside my studying for tests and quizzes until AFTER I've finished reading the book. No regrets. :)

Now the ending...the ending really was something. Or actually, to be more specific...the last fifteen or so chapters of the book was definitely NOT what I'd have expected. At all. Let's just say that the last parts of the book...weren't so great for Saul, and not the happily ever after that I (along with whoever reads the book) had hoped for Saul and his hockey career.

Also...I thought it vital to mention that I quite enjoyed this book even though I have no knowledge of hockey whatsoever. Before picking up this book to read, my English teacher briefly introduced the book and summarised the blurb on the back for us. I instantly thought it would be one of THOSE books where you would need to have at least SOME background knowledge of the subject lest you get lost in all the jargon and technical terms...but it wasn't like that! Huzzah!

Then there was my social studies teacher who saw the book I was reading and asked how I was liking it. Mind you, that was when I was still stuck in the measly first forty pages of absolute boredom. So I didn't really give her an answer...I only said something along the lines of: I'm not deep enough into the book to give you an accurate rating of the book. She then proceeded to explain to me how she read this book sometime last year and was so deeply entrenched in the book that her family had to tell her to put the book down and join the family. Now, if she loved it so couldn't have been THAT bad, right? Right. It turned out to be pretty good. I'm glad I read it.
So...what books have you read that started out boring, but turned out to be super good?

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