As many of you know, I usually choose books based on authors; however, this book was picked at random. Not knowing anything about Eden Robinson, I was intrigued by the title itself.
No, I didn’t read the back of the book or even a few pages of it, like I normally would, when choosing a book at random. Instead, I let the title unleash my imagination (if you will). To me, the title indicated a conflict of being the son of the Raven, or Coyote, or whatever form the Trickster presents himself. I wanted to know whether this character had learned about his skills, had any tricks up his sleeve and how he fit in with today’s society.
Sure enough, this is a book- first part of a trilogy- about the coming of age of a young Indigenous boy- native to BC. Robinson’s style of writing kept me turning the pages, despite the slowness of the plot formation. She gives the reader crumbs to keep them intrigued up until the end.
The first crumb she gave me (besides the title), was when the boy’s grandmother called him “Wee’git”. That alone was a word I hadn’t heard since my childhood, when my friends mothers would scold us for being rowdy. This child, Jared’s, grandmother is convinced that he has the spirit of the Trickster itself. To the outsider, she seems like an odd old lady, giving animal blood and teeth as birthday gifts- but to those familiar with the cultures, know that this gift was meant to protect and safeguard her family from the Trickster.
We feel sorry for Jared due to the violence and instability of his home- not because this is uncommon amongst First Nations, but because Robinson quickly makes her character decent and trustworthy. He appears to be uncorrupted by the violence surrounding him. Even though, he bakes “cookies”, he does so to support his father- and only sells to reliable “customers”. He is constantly looking after his mom, his dad, his half-sister (though reluctantly) and his elderly neighbours. He gets decent grades in school and overall, seems like a good kid.
Throughout the book, Jared struggles with the normal teen anxieties, such as social acceptance, drug and sexual experimentation but he also struggles with understanding his cultural background and beliefs. It is this struggle that keeps readers intrigued. At the moments where it seems as though the plot is going nowhere- we get a sense of a mythical creature speaking at first to Jared (through the Raven), and then to the reader. This creature seems to be explaining the universe and things beyond human comprehension. Based on the fact that Jared can understand the creatures- and can even speak to them, leads the reader to believe that he does have some sort of “supernatural” powers- yet we don’t know to what extent.
When Jared encounters the Trickster, he sees him in various forms- in the form of a Raven, Sarah- his girlfriend, in the form of otters and his mother. Out of all these forms, it appears that the Raven is the only one who is watching out for him. Indigenous symbolism is heavily present in the novel, hinting at what to expect, the Raven, Fireflies, Bears, Otters and other creatures stuck behind human skin. These symbols play their part in humouring, warning and scaring the characters of the book, while encouraging the readers to quicken the pace.
Towards the end of the novel, Jared learns that his mother is a medicinal woman, a “witch” and she has been protecting him from all sorts of mythical creatures by casting spells. While the women in his life, his mother, grandmother, elderly neighbour and even his confused girlfriend all hold special powers- Jared, himself appears to be without any. He relies on the women in his life for safety- the book ends before our questions are answered: Who really is Jared’s father? If it is the Raven, is that the reason why he lacks powers? Will he discover any new capabilities? What do the fireflies above his girlfriend’s head symbolise? What will become of Jared? I guess we just have to wait until the next book comes out in 2019!