Skip to main content

Medicine Walk by Richard Wagamese

In the Ojibway world you go inward in order to express outward. That journey can be harrowing sometimes but it can also be the source of much joy, freedom, and light.

Richard Wagamese’s highly anticipated novel Medicine Walk is now on bookshelves. After the success of Indian Horse – A Canada Reads 2013 finalist – the celebrated author’s new novel is expected to inspire change.

A father, a son, a struggle to accept and be accepted; and, a medicine walk to reclaim the past and atone for the ghosts that haunt us.

The land has powers to heal. Sixteen-year-old Franklin Starlight is called upon by his dying father, to travel with him into the mountains so he can be buried in the traditional Ojibway manner.

“I need you to bury me facing east,” he said. “Sitting up, in the warrior way.”“You ain’t no warrior.” “I was once,” he said. “Need to tell you about that. Need to tell you a lot of things.”
Although Franklin has his reservations and doesn’t particularly think much of his father who abandoned him as a baby, he plays the dutiful son and agrees to it.

What ensues is a cleansing of past sins with stories, and an attempt to mend the broken connection between father and son. The journey through rugged backcountry in the interior of British Columbia is beautifully portrayed; you can tell how connected Richard Wagamese feels to the land.
 “I can’t know what he believes. He talks a lot, but I still got no sense of him. So far it’s all been stories.” 
She only nodded. “It’s all we are in the end. Our stories.”

The story was born out of a lot of soul searching and reflection. The pace is slow, especially at the beginning of Medicine Walk. I suppose it’s meant to be. But if you aren’t prepared for it, it may feel like you are crawling through pages to get the meat of the story.

You need patience and focus as it is possible to get lost very quickly scanning through verbose descriptions. It’s like painting a picture in 246 pages. If you were expecting another Indian Horse you may be disappointed. Medicine Walk is a far contrast to Richard Wagamese’s last gripping novel, which still remains my all time favourite for its pace and ability to really tug at your heartstrings.

Accolades for the book came from authors like Lisa Moore and Jane Urquhart. If you like their style of writing it will appeal to you. Joseph Boyden says it’s Richard Wagamese’s “heart song”.

Medicine Walk is published by McClelland & Stewart, a division of Random House LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, New York. 

2.5 out of 5 Sukasa Stars

Review by @ShilpaRaikar for @SukasaReads (a division of @SukasaStyle)