A haunting debut novel where dreams, family and spirits collide
Mackenzie, a Cree millennial, wakes up in her one-bedroom Vancouver apartment clutching a pine bough she had been holding in her dream just moments earlier. When she blinks, it disappears. But she can still smell the sharp pine scent in the air, the nearest pine tree a thousand kilometres away in the far reaches of Treaty 8.
Mackenzie continues to accidentally bring back items from her dreams, dreams that are eerily similar to real memories of her older sister and Kokum before their untimely deaths. As Mackenzie’s life spirals into a living nightmare—crows are following her around and she’s getting texts from her dead sister on the other side—it becomes clear that these dreams have terrifying, real-life consequences. Desperate for help, Mackenzie returns to her mother, sister, cousin, and aunties in her small Alberta hometown. Together, they try to uncover what is haunting Mackenzie before something irrevocable happens to anyone else around her.
Haunting, fierce, an ode to female relations and the strength found in kinship, Bad Cree is a gripping, arresting debut by an unforgettable voice.
About the author
Jessica Johns is a nehiyaw aunty and member of Sucker Creek First Nation in Treaty 8 territory in Northern Alberta and is currently living, working, and learning on the traditional territory of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh peoples. She is the managing editor for Room magazine and a co-organizer of the Indigenous Brilliance reading series in Vancouver. Her stories have appeared in many magazines. Most recently, her short story "Bad Cree" won the 2020 Writers' Trust Journey Prize and won silver at the 2020 National Magazine Awards.
"With creeps that are ever-creepy and love flowing like beer at a bush party, Bad Cree is a book about the power of dreams, home and family. It reads like a tribute to the ones who came before us Lee Maracle, Jeanette Armstrong, Eden Robinson. This book is tough iskwew in flannel shirts with long unbrushed hair, just looking good. It’s tea rings on Formica tables, cigarette smoke wafting through windows, and an eerie magical realism that only belongs to the bush. Full of Auntie power, Jessica Johns is really coming into her own immense storytelling ways." — Katherena Vermette, author of The Break and The Strangers
"Bad Cree is a masterwork of creeping tension. Wry, moody and subversive, Johns explores the power of connections, both the harm and the healing, with characters rich and warm, tangled in each other, to the land and to the supernatural. Couldn't put it down." — Eden Robinson, author of the Trickster trilogy
"Bad Cree deftly explores the permeable boundaries of dreams, reality, and culture, as well as complex family dynamics and relationships. A compelling novel that is a mystery and a horror story about grief, but one with defiant hope in its beating heart." — Paul Tremblay, author A Head Full of Ghosts and The Pallbearers Club
“In evocative yet understated prose, Jessica Johns weaves a captivating tale of love, loss, the violence of greed and the healing power of family. In Bad Cree, Johns delivers a suspenseful and thought-provoking page turner you won’t want to put down.”
— Michelle Good, #1 bestselling author of Five Little Indians
"Both tactile and dreamy, terrifying and beautiful, Bad Cree will wrap you up and pull you along for the journey -once it starts, there’s no backing out, no pause, no stall. I have been waiting years for Jessica John’s books – I say books because there had better be more! She did not disappoint." — Cherie Dimaline, author for The Marrow Thieves and Empire of Wild
“Reading this book is like getting lost inside of a cloud. Jessica Johns has captured the strength, joy and devastation of community and siblinghood and also the powers within. . . . I suggest reading this alongside a friend, or a sibling or an aunty. It’s a surreal dreamy unraveling delight you’ll want to hug about. — Téa Mutonji, author of Shut Up You're Pretty
“The novel serves as a window into a world where dreams intersect with waking reality, and where that unseen dimension is as much a part of the life of a tight-knit family and community as bingo, jokes, and video games. It works equally well as spine-tingling thriller and a touching meditation on grief.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A single death sets this story in motion, but Johns used one lost life to explore generational trauma and the ways in which families and communities can break harmful cycles and heal themselves. At the same time, she delivers a narrative that is truly chilling and suspenseful." — Kirkus Reviews
“Johns laces cryptid terror into the sense of loss that her community feels. . . Visceral details will have readers hanging on the edge of every chapter, waiting to see when the wheetigo will strike next. Perfect for fans of Ramona Emerson’s Shutter and Stephen Graham Jones’ The Only Good Indians—Johns is a writer to watch.” — Booklist (starred review)
“[Bad Cree] is. . .a story about grief and family and the lingering effects of the infringement of industrialism on native lands. . .When the book ends, what readers will remember most are the moments these characters shared together, playing cards and talking late into the night.” — Library Journal
"A narrative that is truly chilling and suspenseful. A powerful exploration of generational trauma and an artful, affecting debut.” — Kirkus Reviews
“Bad Cree’s portrayal of the aftermath of loss will shatter your heart into shards and then glue them back together again.” — Maisonneuve
"A visionary journey into the liminal zones of consciousness and reality itself." — Toronto Star
"With Bad Cree, Johns demonstrates that it’s possible to craft a bone-chilling novel that has, at its core, a warm, beating heart." — Quill & Quire
"A magical debut thriller that is both terrifying but also lovingly written." — Ms. magazine