It was my librarian friend who pressed the book into my hands. I wasn’t sure I had time. We just started the school year.
I began reading The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline.
Fiction often throws me into disorientation which I somehow resent. I feel feeble-minded for not being able to keep up with the cast of characters and imagine them, each distinctly in my mind’s eye. Fiction can make me feel ‘less than’ sometimes: less than a strong reader, less than an attentive reader.
I read this story anyway which begins with the opening of a big bag of Doritos.
The fiction of The Marrow Thieves takes us into a dark, vicious future not very far away and every inch fathomable. That is both its magic and its grip. The tale it tells of another wave of destruction of indigenous populations across North America by none other the white colonizers. It’s a pillaging of a population which still maintains the ability to dream by those who have lost that same capacity. The native people are hunted for their bone marrow where their dreams are held.
I think it is the comprehensive idea of destruction that grabbed hold of me and did not let go. The narrative takes place in a time when climate change has wrought irreparable damage and environmental devastation defines landscapes more than anything else. Migration, resource scarcity, disease and insanity become the norm. And these are related as “The Story” told by the leader of a ragtag group of children and teens moving north through the bush evading “Recruiters” and others who might harm them.
One passage blew me away: “Soon they needed too many bodies, and they turned to history to show them how to best keep us warehoused, how to best position the culling. That’s when the new residential schools started growing up from the dirt like poisonous brick mushrooms.” (p. 89)
It’s often necessary to read about the struggles of others to understand what struggle even means.
I cannot remember reading a book and feeling so much fear, hope and kinship with the characters. While I prayed for resolution, I hardly expected it, though Dimaline’s writing which weaves story lines so gracefully offered reward enough regardless of the outcome.
My library friend knew I was ready. This was the fiction I needed to better see reality.