Three Day Road
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Set in Canada and the battlefields of France and Belgium, Three-Day Road is a mesmerizing novel told through the eyes of Niska—a Canadian Oji-Cree woman living off the land who is the last of a line of healers and diviners—and her nephew Xavier.
At the urging of his friend Elijah, a Cree boy raised in reserve schools, Xavier joins the war effort. Shipped off to Europe when they are nineteen, the boys are marginalized from the Canadian soldiers not only by their native appearance but also by the fine marksmanship that years of hunting in the bush has taught them. Both become snipers renowned for their uncanny accuracy. But while Xavier struggles to understand the purpose of the war and to come to terms with his conscience for the many lives he has ended, Elijah becomes obsessed with killing, taking great risks to become the most accomplished sniper in the army. Eventually the harrowing and bloody truth of war takes its toll on the two friends in different, profound ways. Intertwined with this account is the story of Niska, who herself has borne witness to a lifetime of death—the death of her people.
In part inspired by the legend of Francis Pegahmagabow, the great Indian sniper of World War I, Three-Day Road is an impeccably researched and beautifully written story that offers a searing reminder about the cost of war.
from the explosion. I can’t move, can only stare up at him, his mouth. “Are we not best friends, Xavier?” he asks. “Are we not best friends and great hunters?” He is my old friend again. I see the hurt child in him now. I nod. “You were always the better hunter,” he says. He reaches for me. “It has gone too far, hasn’t it,” he says. “I have gone too far, haven’t I.” His words wake my body. Elijah’s hands reach for my throat. He squeezes it hard, and the words from that letter come back to
points to the water. “A lynx could jump that distance.” I do not believe him. By mid-morning the blackened ground gives way to thick green bush. The change is not gradual but sudden. One can walk the jagged fire line of damage stretching west, the lush of high summer to the left, the black of fire on the right. I take a deep breath of the returned season. We keep a close eye out for game all that day, and as dusk approaches put out our lines. No fish bite. I smell the scent of smoke in the
my family’s fire inside of me, and it was only then that I realized he was a spell-caster of some kind and he’d stolen my strength. The stink of their tobacco and drink and especially of him wafted up from the clothes that I wore so that I thought my head would split. I stood and tore them from me, ripped every stitch from my skin and flung the material into the river and finally I stood naked under the moon, my head back and mouth open, the howling of a hurt animal constricting my throat.
found you. Not only this, but I knew from my brief stay in the residential school that most of the children were allowed to return to their parents for a short while in this season, and I hoped this would make finding you much easier. If what I’d heard was true, my sister was in no condition to keep you, and you’d be lonely and likely willing to leave if I invited. And that is how I finally decided. I would not take you by force. I would ask my nephew if he wanted to come with me. If you said no,
easy shot from where they are tangled up and turning black, and I think that they must have bullets for a Mauser with them. I consider mentioning this growing idea to Elijah in the hopes that he will join me in the adventure, but then decide I want to do this alone. It’s dangerous, I know, but that’s the point, isn’t it? I can almost hear Elijah saying this in his funny-sounding wemistikoshiw tongue. I fear being caught by my own and the trouble that will come from it as much as being caught by