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Fiction Literary


by (author) Joseph Boyden

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Oct 2016
Literary, Family Life, Visionary & Metaphysical
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2016
    List Price

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Shortlisted for the 2017 OLSN Northern Lit Award

An Ojibwe boy runs away from a North Ontario Indian School, not realizing just how far away home is. Along the way he's followed by Manitous, spirits of the forest who comment on his plight, cajoling, taunting, and ultimately offering him a type of comfort on his difficult journey back to the place he was so brutally removed from.

Written by Scotiabank Giller Prize–winning author Joseph Boyden and beautifully illustrated by acclaimed artist Kent Monkman, Wenjack is a powerful and poignant look into the world of a residential school runaway trying to find his way home.

About the author

Joseph Boyden's first novel, Three Day Road, was selected for the Today Show Book Club, won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year Award, the in Canada First Novel Award, and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award, and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. His second novel, Through Black Spruce, was awarded the Scotiabank Giller Prize and named the Canadian Booksellers Association Fiction Book of the Year; it also earned him the CBA’s Author of the Year Award. His most recent novel, The Orenda, won Canada Reads and was nominated for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and the Governor General’s Award for Fiction. Boyden divides his time between Northern Ontario and Louisiana.

Joseph Boyden's profile page


  • Short-listed, Ontario Library Service North Northern Lit Award

Excerpt: Wenjack (by (author) Joseph Boyden)

Tonight is the night they line us up and then we climb in the water tub, two, or three of us if we’re real skinny, and we have to wash the back of the one in front. Then we get out and Fish Belly rubs each of us with a wet towel. This means tomorrow is prayer day. I can tell which niijii, which friend, ran away from the school this week by the long red marks on his back. Ever a lot of red marks. Ever a lot of friends who ran away this week. But Fish Belly teacher has Fish Belly friends who go out and catch them. We have a secret path, but maybe it’s not so secret anymore. The Fish Bellies are good at catching Indian children.

One day I will run. One day they won’t hurt me anymore.

Editorial Reviews

Shortlisted for the 2017 OLSN Northern Lit Award

“A profoundly sensitive writer with the eye of a painter and a heart as big as the country about which he writes.” —Frederick Barton

“Boyden is such a fine writer, evoking his characters’ emotions in a touching and understandable way.” —Toronto Star

“Boyden continues the difficult conversation of reconciliation by allowing us a glimpse into the frightened mind of a child who only knows that home is where he should be—and that Cecilia Jeffrey Indian Residential School is not it.” —Maclean’s

“Joseph Boyden has written Wenjack, a novella that deftly suffuses Chanie’s tragedy with traditional Aboriginal beliefs. . . . This is a world of transformations where owls can turn into mice, and fish give themselves voluntarily to fishermen—a world in which all beings are interconnected through the ceaseless interplay of life and death. . . . At the end of the novella, Boyden shows Chanie in the afterlife dancing and feasting with the animals. The image, meant to convey an ecological and spiritual truth, does little to redeem his final, terrible hours on the tracks.” —Maclean’s
“Chanie Wenjack was just 12 when his body was found beside the railroad tracks just days after he ran away from his residential school in Kenora, Ont. Now, 50 years later, the young Ojibwe boy is being remembered in . . . this magical novella, the chapters alternating between Chanie’s journey and the spirit animals who document his quest—and wait to receive him when he passes over to their sphere.” —Toronto Star

“It should be required reading.” —CTV News

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