Monkey Beach meets Green Grass, Running Water meets The Beachcombers in this wise and funny novel by a debut Cree author
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.
Lindberg's debut novel is a twisting, darkly funny, heartbreaking, sometimes brilliant and sometimes incoherent tale situated in the complicated inner life of Bernice "Birdie" Meetos. Bernice is a Cree woman who was born and spent her childhoood on a reserve in northern Alberta. From there, she is sent to a Christian school, foster care, and a psychiatric hospital, and eventually ends up living on the streets of Edmonton, Alta. Finally, she moves from Alberta to Gibsons, B.C., ostensibly in hopes of meeting a native actor whom she idolized as a teen. Throughout much of the book Birdie has taken to her bed in her room above Lola's Little Slice of Heaven, the bakery in Gibsons where she works. There, in waking dreams, she begins to deal with the emotional and sexual abuse she endured as a child as well as the death of her mother. The novel's timeline and plot are difficult to follow as they move between Bernice's past and present, waking and dreaming, concrete reality and spirit world. The book's strength lies not in its larger story but in its small moments, particularly when Birdie is reflecting on her childhood. Lindberg is a Cree and M tis lawyer and a professor of law and indigenous studies at two universities. If her next work of fiction has better structure and a more coherent narrative, she will also be an important voice in Canadian literature.
This book takes you on a painful life journey with Beatrice; her path broke my heart and tore at my soul. But gently, ever so slowly, as her healing begins, it enfolded me in the love, strength and supportive presence of womanhood. Written with heartfelt honesty and faith in the goodness inside us all. I was sorry when this tale was over and I had to let go of my new found sisterhood.
A good read. Thank you.
A powerful read
It took a little while to get into this book, but as I got to know the characters the story gripped me with its strength and love. It is a brave story, digging deep into the emotions, strength, culture and love of a family of Cree women.
Birdie showed us how tangible trauma is and healing can happen.
A beautiful story. I am in awe of how the author has made trauma tangible. A must read . May the world heal and may we heal.