Thursday, March 10, 2016

Birdie by Tracey Lindberg

Title: Birdie
Author: Tracey Lindberg
Publisher: HarperCollins Canada
Format: Kindle eBook
Source: Purchased
On Sale Date: May 26, 2015

Synopsis from publisher's website:
Birdie is a darkly comic and moving first novel about the universal experience of recovering from wounds of the past, informed by the lore and knowledge of Cree traditions. Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman, leaves her home in Northern Alberta following tragedy and travels to Gibsons, BC. She is on something of a vision quest, seeking to understand the messages from The Frugal Gourmet (one of the only television shows available on CBC North) that come to her in her dreams. She is also driven by the leftover teenaged desire to meet Pat Johns, who played Jesse on The Beachcombers, because he is, as she says, a working, healthy Indian man. Bernice heads for Molly’s Reach to find answers but they are not the ones she expected.

With the arrival in Gibsons of her Auntie Val and her cousin Skinny Freda, Bernice finds the strength to face the past and draw the lessons from her dreams that she was never fully taught in life. Part road trip, dream quest and travelogue, the novel touches on the universality of women's experience, regardless of culture or race.

When I first picked up this book, I read the tagline in Goodreads that said:

"Monkey Beach meets Green Grass, Running Water meets The Beachcombers in this wise and funny novel by a debut Cree author"

So, needless to say, I was expecting a bright and uplifting story that tells of a teenaged girl growing up in Cree culture. I was wrong, so very wrong. Instead, I found a book that was extremely difficult to get into. The first hundred pages were a blur. I couldn't get a sense of Birdie, the main character. It was difficult to understand who she was and what had forced her to become the jaded girl we read about page after page. I also constantly mixed up the supporting characters, I became increasingly difficult to remember who was who and why each one was significant.

After I got over the hundred page hurdle and Birdie's situation became increasingly clear, I started to feel for the character, although still slightly confused. The passage below somewhat explains who she is.

"She is so hungry. Not for food, not for drink, not for foreign skin. This appetite that sits next to her now is relatively unknown and persistent. She is hungry for family. For the women she loves. For the sounds of her language. For the peace of no introduction, no backstory, no explanation." Loc 1171

Recent reviews on Goodreads and on various social media outlets are praising Birdie for its unique nature and gripping writing. Unfortunately, I just didn't see the book in the same light. I truly believe that this book tells an important story. I need to and, I will, give it another chance one day.  Some advice to potential readers of this book: Birdie is not the type of book that you can pick up and read a few pages at a time while on a noisy train. It requires a lot more attention, concentration and time.

Canada Reads
Image Source:
Birdie by Tracey Lindberg is being defended by Bruce Poon Tip. A native of Trinidad who grew up in Calgary.

Birdie addresses the topic of starting over. It was a difficult and gut wrenching journey for Birdie and her family. Will this book be the one all Canadians should read? I don't think so because of the barriers I feel readers will have to overcome. Now, with that said, many people believed the same of last year's winner: Ru by Kim Thúy, so, we'll have to wait and see.

1 comment:

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