Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows.
With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement. Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man.
"This book is so many things; it is a mystical tale; it is an ode to the good old hockey game and its power to lift players above their situations; it is a story of a system that fails and fails its children in horrifying ways; it is a story of healing...This is ultimately a hopeful and beautiful book and I recommend it heartily."
"Wagamese's compelling novel harnesses two quintessentially Canadian themes, hockey and colonialism, to create an exhilarating and heart-breaking story. Indian Horse reads like 'powerful medicine, allowing vital teachings to be shared.'"
"...Wagamese alternates between horror and Hockey Night in Canada, like he's an all-star centre flawlessly firing backhand shots."
Evaluated and Approved
"Saul Indian Horse is a tough Ojibway boy whose life seems doomed until he discovers hockey and becomes a brilliant skater with a killer wrist shot. But the star of the northern Ontario Indian tournament circuit -- even scouted by the Toronto Maple Leafs -- is goaded by racism into violence and booze and has to come to terms with the painful facts of his childhood. Indian Horse is a taut, closely observed character study with fabulous writing about our beloved sport. "
"...to watch Richard Wagamese come home in this novel is to watch a phoenix climb. This man and this book are a part of the landscape."
"Wagamese captures the beauty of hockey as few sportswriters could hope to match."
"Richard Wagamese is a national treasure."
"Richard Wagamese's writing is exceptional not only for its sensitivity but for a warmth that extends beyond the page. With a finely calibrated hand, he explores heritage, identity, nature, salvation, and gratitude in works that quietly celebrate storytellingï¿½s vitality and power to transcend."
"Richard Wagamese is a master storyteller, who blends the throb of life with spiritual links to the land, hard work, and culture to find success, his words take you into the soul of Indian Horse, to experience his pain, his growing resentments, his depression, and his fear which has to be faced if he is to regain the joy of life. This book is meant for youth, adults, and elders, to be shared, to be lived, and to be treasured for the clear message of hope and the need to go the distance."
"Richard Wagamese is a born storyteller."
"Wagamese is capable of true grace on the page."
"Wagamese writes with brutal clarity... [and] finds alleviating balance through magical legend."
"Wagamese has written one of the rarest sorts of books: a novel which is both important and a heart-in-throat pleasure."
"Indian Horse is a force for healing in our beautiful, broken world."
"...raw and authentic."
"Richard Wagamese's writing is sweet medicine for the soul."
"Wagamese pulls off a fine balancing act: exposing the horrors of the country's residential schools while also celebrating Canada's national game."
"Indian Horse finds the granite solidity of Wagamese's prose polished to a lustrous sheen; brisk, brief, sharp chapters propel the reader forward. He seamlessly braids together his two traditions: English literary and aboriginal oral. So audible is Saul's voice, that I heard him stop speaking whenever I closed the book...Wagamese crafts an unforgettable work of art."
"...The hockey chapters are compelling; they evoke Sherman Alexie's fiction that examines contemporary life on American Indian reservations through the lens of basketball. But it is as a story of reconciliation that this novel reveals Wagamese's masterful subtly...In a single image, Wagamese complicates in blinding ways the entire narrative; in a single page, Indian Horse deepens from an enjoyable read to a gripping critique of Canada."
"Indian Horse distills much of what Wagamese has been writing about for his whole career into a clearer and sharper liquor, both more bitter and more moving than he has managed in the past. He is such a master of empathy -- of delineating the experience of time passing, of lessons being learned, of tragedies being endured -- that what Saul discovers becomes something the reader learns, as well, shocking and alien, valuable and true. "