Monday, July 22, 2019

#CBR11 Review #27: Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

CBR11 Bingo: Own Voices

Written by Eden Robinson, an Aboriginal Canadian Author of the Haisla and Heiltsuk First Nations, I though Son of a Trickster would definitely fit the Own Voices Bingo square as it is a coming-of-age novel centered on an Aboriginal teenager in Kitimat, British Columbia, which leans solidly into some of the Haisla culture and beliefs, particularly those surrounding the trickster figure, Wee’jit.

Our focus in this novel is a teenager Jared as he navigates the usual teenage social scene and dramas, but with a whole load of other baggage as well: this comes in the form of a broken home and living with an unstable mother and her boyfriend in poverty, selling pot cookies on the side to help out a semi-estranged father and his new step-daughter, drug use and alcoholism, and the violence that can come with a whole storm of problems. Oh, and that’s not to mention that his one grandmother thinks he is a trickster spirit, and she may in fact be right, as Jared slowly starts to experience more sightings of monsters or metaphysical beings in his life that he can’t quite understand.

My first impression of this novel was that the characters and situations within it were a little abrasive, and I wasn’t sure if I wanted to get into something so gritty. But ultimately,  it was worth it to stick with it, because really it’s just an unfortunate reality for a lot of people. Jared’s experiences are not enviable, but all of the decisions he makes (whether what one would consider to be “right” or not) are totally understandable in the context of his life. Also, it would be so easy for a story with this kind of situational setting to lean too heavily into misery, but a lightness remains to the novel in the humor sprinkled throughout, as well as the moments of hope and progress we see in Jared as the protagonist; he’s the kind of kid who may not seem great at first glance, but ultimately you see the good that somehow remains in him despite his circumstances, and you really root for him.

Knowing that Son of a Trickster is the first novel in a trilogy, I would guess that the next two novels get into the magical elements a bit more, though as it is now, the little explanation we get fits with the story being told (and how the characters themselves would realistically approach it) and the resolution of the novel in itself worked for me as a finished piece. That being said, I would be interested in continuing the series should the library make the next instalments available.

One thing, however, that didn’t entirely work for me was the side characters. I didn’t quite understand some of them and their motivations, or rather, how their minds and actions would change from one point to the next. Maybe I wasn’t reading enough between the lines.

However, overall, Son of a Trickster is a solid novel that is both serious in it subjects but not without some light-heartedness and humor. Eden Robinson’s writing style is also clear and smooth, so I certainly would not be opposed to picking up more of her work in the future.

[Be sure to visit the Cannonball Read main site!]

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