Thursday 20 December 2018

Moon of the Crusted Snow

Moon of the Crusted Snow - Rice, Waubgeshig
Moon of the Crusted Snow

By Waubgeshig Rice

Waubgeshig Rice’s novel Moon of the Crusted Snow opens in the crisp autumn chill of a northern Ontario reserve.  Evan Whitesky, a young husband and father, prepares his home for impending winter.  Even in these times of modern conveniences, Evan uses his knowledge of hunting to feed his family and provide a reliable source of healthy food.  Many on the reserve have let their traditional knowledge wane, preferring to rely only on the grocery store.

When cell service disappears, Evan is not surprised – these things happen when you live far north of most of civilization.  When the power goes out and landline service is cut, it’s a little disconcerting but certainly not beyond imagining.  The Band Chief and council simply start up the generators which run on diesel – they’ve been doing this for decades anyway.

But as the days pass with no word from Hydro or anyone else in the south, everyone starts to wonder what’s happening.  Chief Terry, Evan and a few other key players must keep everyone on the reserve calm.

The return of two young men who were attending university in the south throws everything into disarray.  Kevin and Nick put their survival skills to the test, travelling hundreds of kilometres on snowmobiles to flee mounting chaos in the city.  The power outages and service disruptions are everywhere.

Enter Justin Scott, a mysterious snowmobiler who appears suddenly at the edge of town.  Towing a sled full of supplies, Scott has followed Kevin and Nick’s snowmobile tracks all the way to the reserve.  He presents himself as a survivalist who just wants a community to live in away from the city.  But Evan has a bad feeling about Scott.

The presence of an outsider in a small community is just a part of the slowly unfolding crisis that takes place when the sources of heat, energy, food and water that we count on suddenly disappear.  

Moon of the Crusted Snow will fill you with a sense of foreboding as the story builds to a terrifying climax.  Curl up in a blanket and hunker down with this wintry tale of suspense and survival.

Wednesday 12 December 2018

The Best We Could Do

Upon becoming a first time mother, Thi Bui reflects on the lives of her Vietnamese parents.  In an effort to understand her tense relationship with her parents, the author explores her family’s story and recreates it in this beautiful graphic memoire.  During the fall of South Vietnam in the 1970s, her parents made a daring escape to Malaysia to seek refuge from a country in turmoil.  How they came to be on that boat, and how they eventually came to the United States is a much longer and more complicated story that really shines a light on the enduring strength of people in the face of adversity.    

Alternating between periods in each of her parents lives, Bui weaves a story of two separate people who come together to create a family that endures through hardship and works hard to bring better times. The stories of Bui’s parents, Bo and Ma, as children, as a young couple, as new parents, and as refugees, shows amazing growth of character and really humanizes Bo and Ma beyond the label of just being Bui’s parents.  

Beyond the amazing story of two people carting their three children (while Ma is eight months pregnant!) across the seas on a rickety boat, dodging pirates and detection to save their family from the chaos of Vietnam at the end of the Vietnam War, this story exemplifies the hardships parents will endure for their children.  This love is illustrated so beautifully in word and image throughout the book.   While Bui did not grow up in a household where love was expressed verbally or openly on a daily basis, you can see that Ma and Bo did the best they could. 

The Best We Could Do reminded me of Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi and Louis Riel by Chester Brown.  All three books use a different medium to convey true stories of people facing resistance from external forces.  The illustrations bring a new dimension to the telling of these stories.