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#CanadaReads Finalist: Birdie by Tracey Lindberg

Birdie by Tracey Lindberg is a #CanadaReads 2016 finalists. It's an attempt to highlight one woman's journey to recover from a tragic past -- and Tracey does this by injecting humour into the writing. 


nayahcikewiyiniw: a person who bears things on his/her back 

Bernice Meetos has a dark secret from her past. And, she needs to face her past head on before she can find the strength to start over with a renewed lease on life. At the beginning of Birdie, Bernice has left her home in northern Alberta to travel to Gibsons, B.C. She is on something of a vision quest, searching for family, home and understanding. 

vi·sion quest
  1. an attempt to achieve a vision of a future guardian spirit, traditionally undertaken at puberty by boys of the Plains Indian peoples, typically through fasting or self-torture.

Bernice is also driven by her childhood love of Pat Johns, who portrayed the native character Jesse Jim in The Beachcombers, a much-loved CBC comedy that aired from 1972 to 1990. For those who grew up with that show, there will be something to identify with and relate to. It provides the novel a humorous escape amid uncertainty as Bernice tries to navigate her circumstances and face her past. We cannot after all escape our past and expect to seamlessly blend into our future. Without addressing our dark secrets we cannot move on. 

"The dream. In the dream, Jesse, Pat John, carved a ring from a tree and asked her to live with him. She left the hospital in the morning after she had the dream. And, since Gibsons housed the actual Molly's Reach where TV Jesse worked -- there she was."

Lindberg has a powerful voice bringing the Cree traditions to the Canadian audience. With a unique storytelling she is able to highlight a different perspective; one that is uniquely her own. 

"Two secrets. Two things she did not know. It came to Bernice that her mom was drunk. Maggie kept secrets like some women kept canned goods sealed and in the dark until they were needed. When her mom was drunk, Bernice tried to balance her fear with her fascination. And while it always scared her, her stomach knotting instantly and her back tense, it was a lot like sitting in the lodge: people were quite hard to make out but you couldn't wait for what you heard next. The problem was, though, that as her mom relaxed, Bernice got more and more tense."

The novel needs to be read slowly, with a open mindset. Rush through it and you will miss the slow, deliberate pace of Bernice's journey. It is a familiar story that is sadly part of the reality of First Nations peoples. Lindberg has a distinctive voice, one that infuses Cree folklore which lyrically adds to the beauty of reading the book. 

From a personal perspective, it remains to be seen if Birdie will be able to garner the same respect as its #CanadaReads predecessors Richard Wagamese's Indian Horse and Joseph Boyden's The Orenda that took on the First Nations narrative with greater solemnity. The latter took the 2014 #CanadaReads title, while the former was knocked out in the 2013 battle. Does this book have the defence to meet and beat its competitors over the 2016 theme of "Starting Over"? We won't have to wait long to find out.

Watch the #CanadaReads Debates at from March 21-24th to find out which book will win.
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The other five finalists are: Bone & Bread, The Hero's Walk The Illegal, Minister Without Portfolio


Birdie is published by Harper Collins Canada. 

The Illegal -

Birdie -

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