This novel by First Nations/Aboriginal Canadian author Richard Wagamese follows the life of Saul, aka. Indian Horse, as he is born and raised in the Canadian wilderness, only to be ripped out of his family’s arms and thrown into the horrors and evils of a residential school. It’s terrifying to know that these places actually existed here in Canada, a country that today seems so advanced in human rights yet has a dark and cruel past.
Saul’s only savior is of all things, hockey. How much more Canadiana can this be? His success on the ice helps carve out a new life for him, away from the residential school. But no matter what hockey team he plays on or what Canadian town he ends up in, there is little escape from the atrocities of racism that plight the world around him. Saul continues to run, skate, drink, but eventually his past threatens to break through the ice to leave him drowning.
The first part of this book was intriguing, describing traditions, living in the woods, and retellings of Aboriginal stories. The residential school portion was infuriating and heartbreaking. The hockey parts of the book are the most fleshed out, and you can tell Wagamese is either himself a huge hockey fan, or has done his research! I’m not fussed over hockey, but in the context of this novel, I can appreciate it as a vehicle for the main character to make a better life and escape his own.
Indian Horse is a selection I came across through the Amnesty International Book Club.