"Written with primal intensity, touched with redeeming compassion, Rudy Wiebe--has explored our history, our roots and the secrets of our hearts with moral seriousness and great feeling." - Governor General's Award for Fiction Citation, l994
A powerful, major work of non-fiction, beautifully written, with the impact of Mikal Gilmore's Shot in the Heart, from the twice winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction and the great-great-granddaughter of Big Bear.
This is a story about justice, and terrible injustices, a story about a murder, and a courtroom drama as compelling as any thriller as it unravels the events that put Yvonne Johnson behind bars for life, first in Kingston's Federal Prison for Women until the riot that closed it, and presently in the Okimaw Ochi Healing Lodge in the Cypress Hills. But above all it is the unforgettable true story of the life of a Native woman who has decided to speak out and break the silence, written with the redeeming compassion that marks all Rudy Wiebe's writing, and informed throughout by Yvonne Johnson's own intelligence and poetic eloquence.
Characters and events spring to life with the vividness of fiction. The story is told sometimes in the first person by Rudy Wiebe, sometimes by Yvonne herself. He tracks down the details of Yvonne's early life in Butte, Montana, as a child with a double-cleft palate, unable to speak until the kindness of one man provided the necessary operations; the murder of her beloved brother while in police custody; her life of sexual abuse at the hands of another brother, grandfather and others; her escape to Canada - to Winnipeg and Wetaskiwin; the traumas of her life that led to alcoholism, and her slow descent into hell despite the love she found with her husband and three children.
He reveals how she participated, with three others, in the murder of the man she believed to be a child abuser; he unravels the police story, taking us step by step, with jail-taped transcripts, through the police attempts to set one member of the group against the others in their search for a conviction - and the courtroom drama that followed. And Yvonne openly examines her life and, through her grandmother, comes to understand the legacy she has inherited from her ancestor Big Bear; having been led through pain to wisdom, she brings us with her to the point where she finds spiritual strength in passing on the lessons and understandings of her life.
How the great-great-granddaughter of Big Bear reached out to the author of The Temptations of Big Bear to help her tell her story is itself an extraordinary tale. The co-authorship between one of Canada's foremost writers and the only Native woman in Canada serving life imprisonment for murder has produced a deeply moving, raw and honest book that speaks to all of us, and gives us new insight into the society we live in, while offering a deeply moving affirmation of spiritual healing.