Finalist, Governor General's Literary Award in the Translation Category
A Quebec bestseller based on the life of Michel Jean’s great-grandmother that delivers an empathetic portrait of drastic change in an Innu community.
Kukum recounts the story of Almanda Siméon, an orphan raised by her aunt and uncle, who falls in love with a young Innu man despite their cultural differences and goes on to share her life with the Pekuakami Innu community. They accept her as one of their own: Almanda learns their language, how to live a nomadic existence, and begins to break down the barriers imposed on Indigenous women. Unfolding over the course of a century, the novel details the end of traditional ways of life for the Innu, as Almanda and her family face the loss of their land and confinement to reserves, and the enduring violence of residential schools.
Kukum intimately expresses the importance of Innu ancestral values and the need for freedom nomadic peoples feel to this day.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
A young woman follows her heart into the centre of an Indigenous community in this compelling work of historical fiction, inspired by the life of the author’s great-grandmother. In 19th-century Quebec, Almanda Siméon lives a simple life as a farm girl raised by her aunt and uncle…until the handsome Thomas canoes past her and they catch each other’s eye. Eventually, Almanda marries Thomas and is adopted by his Innu tribe, adapting to their way of life—which is about to change dramatically. Michel Jean’s prose sparkles with descriptions of pristine Quebec landscapes before they were forever changed by railroads, logging, and pollution. He lets us witness the Innu’s nomadic practices and philosophies through Almanda’s eyes, as well as the horrors her adopted people experience as they’re corralled onto reserves. Kukum is an affecting novel about a woman with her feet in two different worlds.