Second Tuesday Book Club will meet in-person from 7 to 8:15 p.m. on Tuesday, July 12, in the program room at Schimelpfenig Library, to discuss Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese. We will observe social distancing, with face coverings recommended. Please email Cathe Spencer at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have questions or comments. See you at Schimelpfenig Library in July!
Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese
“All that we are is story. It is what we arrive with. It is all that we leave behind.”
When sixteen-year-old Franklin Starlight is summoned by his ailing father, Eldon, Frank’s sense of duty clashes with the resentment he feels for his father’s many years of neglect and drinking. But when the two men set out together on one last journey, Eldon offers his son an emotional inheritance Franklin never could have imagined.
Medicine Walk was published in Canada in 2014 by First Nations novelist and poet Richard Wagamese. It was awarded the Banff Mountain Book Festival Grand Award in 2015.
Writing in the New York Times, Liam Callanan remarks that “Wagamese pursues his story as a slow process: biding his time, never rushing, calibrating each word so carefully that he too never seems to waste a [word]. But he is after something more complicated — finding a way to honor or at least acknowledge a life ill-lived as it enters its final bitter days … And here’s Wagamese’s feat. Though death saturates these pages, not a word here is lugubrious. Though revelations abound, there are no cheap surprises. ‘Plain says it plain around here,’ an old man cautions Eldon at one point. And yet there’s nothing plain about this plain-spoken book.”
Publisher’s Weekly gave Medicine Walk a starred review, noting that “Canadian author and memoirist Wagamese has penned a complex, rugged, and moving father-son novel. Eldon persuades Franklin to take him on a 40-mile journey to an isolated ridge to die so that he can be buried “in the warrior way.” Initially, Franklin is unsympathetic to his father’s plight. However, as Eldon tells his tales, including that of his harrowing ordeal in the Korean War, Franklin comes to see his father in a new light. Wagamese’s muscular prose and spare tone complement this gem of a narrative.”
“We’re becoming an undeniable voice. And the strength and the vitality in the way we’re learning and choosing to tell our stories is also becoming undeniable.”
In his profile of Richard Wagamese (1955-2017), The Canadian Encyclopedia contributor Jules Lewis comments, “His works speak about the historical and contemporary socio-economic issues affecting Indigenous communities in Canada. They also bring attention to issues regarding Indigenous identity, culture and truth and reconciliation. Wagamese’s works have inspired many Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples and writers alike.” See this link for the entire article.
He was born in 1955, a member of the Ojibwa First Nation, in northwestern Ontario. When he was two, he and his three siblings were abandoned by their parents during a fishing trip, and he spent years in foster care, reuniting with his family only as a young adult. He worked as a journalist for a number of years, and published his first novel in 1994. He was well-known for his very engaging live readings which included traditional stories and poetry, and always reflected his indigenous identity. His works received a number of major Canadian literary awards.
His novel Indian Horse was adapted as a film and released in 2017, the year he died in Kamloops, British Columbia.
(photo courtesy of the Toronto Star)