My goal in 2015 was to read 100 books and to increase my Canadian content. Monkey Beach written by First Nation’s author, Eden Robinson is my 100th book read (and the 34th book published in Canada) for 2015. This book was recommended by a friend and did not disappoint.
The novel tells the tale of Lisamarie, a First Nations girl, living in the Haisla territory of British Columbia. She is searching for her brother Jimmy. He had vanished after setting out for a job on a fishing boat. As she looks for her brother, Lisa reflects on her childhood experiences and her family history. Lisa’s close knit family has been impacted by residential schools, addiction, abuse and the early demise of many loved ones.
Loss had been rampant in the family. Her favourite Uncle Mick had been a strong role model and his loss was devastating. Her Ma-ma-oo (grandmother) had shared her knowledge of the Haisla language and culture, including her skills of gathering and her experience with the spirits. While dealing with the loss of family, Lisamarie struggled at school, ended up in physical confrontations and ran away to Vancouver to use drugs and alcohol.
As she searched, Lisa struggled to come to terms with the past experiences and accepting her own culture spirituality. Taking the solitary journey down the coast to help find her brother provided time for reflection and to understand herself. I do wish that the story had gone just a bit further to share the outcome of this coming of age trip.
This book was a finalist for the Giller prize and there is a group seeking to make it into a movie. While I think it would be a great basis for a movie, it would be very challenging to compact the complexity of this story into a 2 hour film that would do the story justice. Like many other Canadian novels that I have reviewed this year, I think that this would be a great story for high school curriculum.