Thursday, June 3, 2010

BOOK: Motorcycles & Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor

Motorcycles & Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor, 346 pages

Countdown: 2010 title; 3rd Canadian Book Challenge

Much of this fun novel read like a movie or television show. Once I realized that Taylor had been a writer on The Beachcombers and North of 60, it made sense. A realistic, yet not depressing look at life on a reserve in Ontario, it also blends some magical, mythological elements.

A mysterious stranger arrives into town after being summoned by a dying matriarch. Her daughter, the chief, needs some fun in her life, and Nanabush or Trickster, from Anishnawbe legend, certainly spices up her life. He arrives and shakes up Otter Lake just as they are trying to decide what to do with a recent land acquisition.

Some great characters populate this book:
  • Wayne, the hermit brother, who is inventing a native martial arts based on animals
  • Dakota, most of her native heritage is in her name, with a crush on John, the stranger
  • Sammy, the survivor of Residential school, but just barely
  • the raccoons, holding a severe grudge against Nanabush, and out for revenge
  • the Indian Motorcycle, a dramatic character in its own right

I'm not supposed to quote from the ARC copy I had, but surely these great lines won't be changed?

[The Indian Motorcycle] wasn't just cool, it was cool squared, maybe even cubed. p 47

Who was this man? Nobody in his family was cool enough to know a guy like this, Virgil thought. p 47

It seemed her son just needed a good kick in the pants, but Ms Weatherford explained it in less abusive terms. p 126

The other horrible thing he realized was that it wasn't even nine o'clock yet, and there was so much more day left for things to go wrong. p 217

She hated appearing on television, felt she looked too haggard and worn, like a character from a Margaret Laurence novel. p 253

A book that readers looking for a Canadian book, a mythological book for Once Upon a Time, or just a fun, unique read should look for Motorcycles & Sweetgrass. I was sent this book as part of Random House's New Faces of Fiction, and I would certainly look for another book by Taylor. He's off to a great start!