Empire of Wild by Cherrie Dimaline
I have done A LOT of reading lately Readheads (and now we are back in lockdown, I suspect there’ll be even more. Oh praise be). Some I’ll blog about, some I won’t and not because I don’t like them. Simply they were either older books that tickled my fancy, or a memoir, and while they were good, they’re just not really up our alley here. But this one, well this one is a goodie and I just had to jump on to say I think you might too.
How much I enjoyed it took me by surprise actually. I picked it up on a whim and hoped for the best. Happy days it delivered.
Broken hearted Joan has been searching for her husband Victor for nearly a year. They had an argument, their first. He leaves in a huff. And then he never comes back. Gonsky.
Devastated and shocked Joan stumbles on trying to make sense of it and after another night of self-medicating she wakes up in a car in a Walmart car park and through blurry, hungover eyes sees a revival tent (a mobile church of sorts). She’d heard about the tent around town because the local Métis* people were flocking to hear a charismatic new preacher and intrigued – and with nowhere else to go – she walks in.
Once inside she hears a voice she knows – Victor – only now he is the Reverand Eugene Wolff on a mission to bring his people to Jesus.
And so begins Joan’s quest to bring her lost husband back – to her and to who he is.
The ruse to recreate a person’s identity is so elaborate it literally takes a village and Joan brings a war to those responsible for hiding Victor. She is desperate to get him free and the mythology around the Metis ( people of mixed European and Indigenous ancestry, and one of the three recognized Aboriginal peoples in Canada) is beautifully and mesmerisingly worked into the entire arc of this tale.
It’s a wild ride and I loved being along on it. Joan is a force and her family – particularly her nephew Zeus are fabulous characters. Gritty and wild and unafraid.
As far as stories go, this was a romp Readheads and we all love one of those from time to time, right?
But that is just my two cents worth.