Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice

Evan and Nicole live on the rez all the way north in Ontario, ever so close to the Inuit lands surrounding Hudson Bay. Author Waubgeshig Rice is a First Nations native from a less-northerly band than Evan and Nicole’s, so I was ready to believe him when he told me the details of his novel’s land. I needn’t even have considered it. I felt I could go to Thunder Bay, Ontario, get in a car or on a snowmobile, and I’d find the Whitesky clan soon enough.

Ontario Reservation

We meet Evan Whitesky as he’s butchering his last moose of the season, field dressing the huge bull because it’s too much for him to handle alone. He’s lucky, he feels, to have grown up more in tune with the old hunting ways; he’d’ve been sad and guilty if he’d had to abandon this huge meat source from inability to move it to a truck by himself. He offers sacred tobacco…the store-bought kind, dammit, he forgot the uncured stash!…in thanks for the life he was allowed to take that he may feed his family, his citified little brother and his aging parents, as well as the members of the band whose hunting luck wasn’t as good as his.

And that’s how we meet the main PoV character in a post-apocalyptic story. Yes indeed, this’ll be a good read!

It was, it was…I particularly approve of the extremely limited sense we’re given of just exactly *what* happened to the world of the white people. The difference between before and after is really a matter of degree for the characters in Author Rice’s tender care. /irony

Good Parts: First post-apocalyptic story from a Native American read by one. Accents bring some authenticity and you get information about the customs, traditional ways merging with the new modern world. First half was really good. The living conditions on reserve, the community attitudes, the weather and the way geographical placement so far north lends itself to a singular experience and feel. I thought Rice did an exceptional job capturing the complicated relationship that indigenous people have with alcohol, and how it affects both individuals and the community as a whole.

Bad parts: gets boring real fast and none of the characters have depth. The pace slows down and the silence and stoicism of the Natives.  Most of the story follows Evan Whitesky as he and those connected with governance and infrastructure maintenance on the reserve work to keep order and ensure the community’s most vulnerable members have what they need to survive to the spring. But, when a massive white man arrives on snowmobile along with a veritable arsenal, the fragile stability they found becomes jeopardized. In the face of dwindling food supplies, desperation divides an increasingly frightened populace.

I think the author was more interested in showing his culture to the rest of the world – the speckles of words attest to that. We know he cares a lot and wants to show it in the best light possible. He also takes time to discretely criticize colonialism for causing the problems afflicting these people–both through direct meddling and a reliance the people increasingly have on colonial ways not suited to their values or their environment. 

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