March 01, 2017

Son of a Trickster - Eden Robinson

Knopf Canada, February 7, 2017.

Five Stars

I have read and loved all of Robinson’s previous novels, and I couldn’t be happier to learn that Son of a Trickster is the first in a planned trilogy about Native teen Jared and his exploration of both the real and the spirit worlds in Kitimat, B.C. This novel is a very unique combination of coming-of-age family drama, Indigenous beliefs and Northwest Coast flavoured magic realism.

We first meet Jared as a sweet young child who is incredibly loved by his parents and by his dad’s mother, who he calls Nana. His maternal grandmother, however, avoids him as much as possible, because she believes that he is possessed by the Trickster spirit, known as Wee’git. When we next see Jared, he is sixteen and his life has changed irrevocably – his father abandoned his family after a work injury led to a devastating painkiller addiction, and his mother is dating a violent drug dealer. Jared himself is a burnout who drinks too much, but at heart he is still selfless and caring – when he’s not baking pot cookies to pay his parents’ bills, he’s taking care of his elderly neighbours next door.

Jared’s mom got pregnant when she was very young, and so her relationship with her son is more of a friendship between peers. She struggles with drug abuse, and subjects Jared to an unhealthy and unstable home life, but at heart, she loves him deeply. Their banter over text message is authentic and funny, even when it is devastating. Robinson is well aware of the ways people communicate today (texting, Facebook) and she manages to insert this language into her novel without sounding contrived, as other writers often do.

Through his business as the “Cookie Dude,” Jared interacts with all levels of the highschool hierarchy, and Robinson provides us with a multidimensional view of Native life in northern B.C. – some of his friends live on the Rez, while others come from wealthy, privileged homes. Jared’s on-again off-again girlfriend Sarah is mostly white, and yet she is the first one to introduce him to the Idle No More protests. Even though the novel is rooted in traditional Haisla/Heiltsuk folklore, it is accessible and relatable to teenage life everywhere.

Although Jared often experiences blackouts and hallucinations while drunk or high, he becomes alarmed when he starts seeing spirits while completely sober. He is often accompanied by a raven, who gives him advice – but the spirits are not always benign. When his Nana hears about these spiritual experiences, she wants to step in and help him understand his traditional magical roots. Jared’s mother also knows more about it than she lets on, and more secrets from her past are yet to be revealed.

There are so many threads to follow throughout this novel, which will hopefully be delved into in the rest of the Trickster trilogy. The characters are all so current and authentic – even the minor characters feel like people you might meet in real life. The balance of character and plot, the contemporary magic realism, and the focus on Northwest Coast culture – every part of this novel is on my list of favourite fictional elements, and I’m so glad there are two more Trickster books on the way.

I received this book from Knopf Canada and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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