Kristin recently enjoyed Empire of Wild, a compelling genre-bending novel by Governor General Literary Award winner Cherie Dimaline. Here is her review:
"The Canadian author who won her first Governor General’s Literary Award with The Marrow Thieves in 2017, brings us a new spell-binding novel that blends romance, mystery, monsters, and contemporary First Nation struggles into one powerful package! Cherie Dimaline drew inspiration for this novel from regional stories of the Rogarou, a werewolf like creature that can shapeshift, which she heard about as a child in the Metis community near Georgian Bay in Anishinaabe territory.
Empire of Wild begins in a small community in rural Ontario, where a Metis woman named Joan resides. She is grappling with the loss of her husband, Victor, who walked out after a heated argument about the land left to Joan and has not been seen or heard from in nearly a year. Joan’s close-knit family assumes Victor has left the marriage, but she is convinced that if she continues searching, she will find her long lost husband. As can be expected, Victor’s absence is deeply starting to affect Joan’s mental and physical health. Randomly, one hungover morning she stumbles into a tent set up in a Wal-Mart parking lot, where a travelling preacher is about to address the congregation. Unbelievably, this man is the spitting image of her husband and Joan instantly believes she has finally found her beloved, missing Victor at last! However, the man she thinks is Victor refuses to recognize her and the whole situation seems impossibly surreal to Joan. It gets even stranger when she encounters the financial backer of this travelling church, the threatening and unnerving Thomas Heiser, who proclaims that her husband is dead. Could this travelling preacher really be her husband? If so, why doesn’t he recognize the love of his life and who is this sinister Mr. Heiser who claims to know what became of her missing husband? Unwilling to accept the conclusions of a stranger, Joan sets out in search of the truth armed with Native medicine and advice from her community elders. This quest will take Joan directly through all kinds of trials and challenges from present-day First Nation struggles to unimaginable horrors we experience only in nightmares.
This novel seamlessly mixes realistic characters with spiritual and supernatural elements. There is something for everyone to learn in this literary thriller, that perfectly displays the strength and resilience of Indigenous females and their families. Thus, Empire of Wild is a must read with poetic prose, unforgettable characters, a rapidly moving plot, and an underlying magical thrill that will send you breathlessly flipping through the pages on your way to an epic final chapter!
Reserve Empire of Wild in print, ebook, or audiobook formats here.
Check out Kristin's other picks here.