Medicine Walk

Medicine Walk

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Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, Eldon. He's sixteen years old and has had the most fleeting of relationships with the man. The rare moments they've shared haunt and trouble Frank, but he answers the call, a son's duty to a father. He finds Eldon decimated after years of drinking, dying of liver failure in a small town flophouse. Eldon asks his son to take him into the mountains, so he may be buried in the traditional Ojibway manner. What ensues is a journey through the rugged and beautiful backcountry, and a journey into the past, as the two men push forward to Eldon's end. From a poverty-stricken childhood, to the Korean War, and later the derelict houses of mill towns, Eldon relates both the desolate moments of his life and a time of redemption and love and in doing so offers Frank a history he has never known, the father he has never had, and a connection to himself he never expected. A novel about love, friendship, courage, and the idea that the land has within it powers of healing, Medicine Walk reveals the ultimate goodness of its characters and offers a deeply moving and redemptive conclusion.
Publisher: Toronto : McClelland & Stewart, 014
ISBN: 9780771089183
Branch Call Number: WAGAMES
Characteristics: 245 pages

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Staff Book Review: Medicine Walk

A beautifully, sparely written novel about a young man and his estranged father, who find themselves on a final walk together. Franklin Starlight, an Ojibway teenager, knows next to nothing about his family, or his past. Along comes (returns) Eldon, his alcoholic absentee father, who takes Franklin on a last “medicine walk” to try and reconnect and finally share Frank’s history. (more)


From Library Staff

"A beautifully, sparely written novel about a young man and his estranged father" - Veronica

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n
nuke_diver
Apr 12, 2018

I wanted to read Indian Horse but it is not available in the local library. So I decided to read this instead. While the topic is rather depressing the book is not. Wagamese's writing is excellent and descriptive. I hope I can read Indian Horse soon as it is considered by some to be a better read.

c
csrestall
Dec 06, 2017

I really enjoyed this novel. I read it for the Amnesty International Canada book club. It held my interest from the beginning to the end. It is about a boy who is coming to terms with his own past and his fathers history and life story, while taking his father on a journey to die. It deals with family issues, abuse, war, and alcoholism. Very worth while read.

t
TEENREVIEWBOARD
Oct 19, 2017

Medicine Walk follows the journey of a half-indigenous boy who, against the backdrop of Canadian wilderness, discovers the history on which his life is built on. As 16-year-old Frank sets out to fulfill his dying father’s last wish, he comes face to face with his father’s harrowing past. He learns about the experiences that drowned his father in alcohol, and consequently, led him down the path of self-destruction. Throughout the story, the clarity and depth of descriptions absorb the reader’s attention in all ways. Along with bringing to life the natural beauty of rural Canada, Wagamese has spun a heart touching tale that illustrates anguish, anger and regret through a father-son relationship. Medicine Walk is unique, entertaining, and definitely worth reading. 5/5 Stars
- @VirtueofReading of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

t
thebritlass
Sep 21, 2017

Incredible prose and thought-provoking material.

m
mclarjh
Aug 17, 2017

Dull prose. Cliched characters. Melodramatic storytelling. Reads more like a Young Adult book, but too long and boring.

g
gingerbeer
Jun 08, 2017

Excellent book; insightful and heart wrenching!

t
tstadheim
May 26, 2017

A terrific book with a great story to tell.

w
wyenotgo
Apr 11, 2017

A magnificent piece of work. Wagamese succeeds in making us believe that despite all the failings arising from human frailty, despite all the betrayals of trust, broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, despite all of that and more, redemption is possible. Forgiveness may take a bit longer. In recounting the painful farewell between a sixteen-year-old and his miserable, alcoholic, dying father, a man he hardly knew, Wagamese traverses the full range of pain, recrimination, revelation, suffering that are part of the human condition. There is no room for joy here but there is a measure of acceptance and finally peace. There are many things to celebrate in this book, among them a skillful exploration of the aboriginal relationship with the natural world, joined with (and expressed through) eurocentric prose; a devastating account of close combat as it took place in the Korean War; and several loving, deeply personal descriptions of the western Canadian high country in all its glory.
A special note of thanks to Shelagh Rogers on the CBC for introducing me to the work of this remarkable writer, who regrettably passed away quite recently.

r
rodraglin
Feb 19, 2017

Franklin Starlight never knew his mother and the few encounters he's had with his alcoholic father have left him hurt and disappointed.

He's been raised on a small ranch in northern British Columbia by "the old man", who's taught him everything he knows about ranching and wilderness survival. He's also taught him about integrity, self-esteem and the qualities of good character.

At sixteen, Franklin's more a man then most.

When he gets a call from his father he's tempted to ignore it, but this time it's different. His father is dying of liver disease and wants Frank to help him travel to remote ridge forty miles out in the wilderness. Once there he wants "a warrior's death", buried sitting upright in the ground facing east "so he can follow the rising sun across the sky to the Happy Hunting Grounds."

As it's his father's dying wish, Frank feels duty-bound to oblige him. Besides, he's longing to know more about his family history including how he came to be brought up by the "the old man".

So begins the journey, from a small mill town into the wilderness, Frank walking and leading a horse his father rides because he is too weak to walk.

As each mile passes Franklin begins to know his father as the man slowly divulges his personal history, Franklin's history.

In Medicine Walk, Richard Wagamese has created a story that resonates on many levels. There's the portrayal of a Spartan way of life defined by hard manual labour, loyalty and integrity as conveyed in the characters of Franklin and "the old man".

Then there's the life Franklin's father has lived - one of never facing up to your demons and using alcohol to keep them at bay.

It's a story of the extremes of human nature - of doing the right thing no matter how tough and painful it is, and doing everything to avoid it.

Wagamese' dialogue is authentic, his characters complex, and his story is brutal in it's truth.

c
citymove
Jul 06, 2016

Beautifully written book that I couldn't put down.

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Notices

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c
csrestall
Dec 06, 2017

Other: alcoholism

c
csrestall
Dec 06, 2017

Sexual Content: sexual scenes

c
csrestall
Dec 06, 2017

Violence: Domestic abuse and war

c
csrestall
Dec 06, 2017

Coarse Language: minor swears

s
shayshortt
Sep 16, 2015

Sexual Content: Prostitution

s
shayshortt
Sep 16, 2015

Violence: Domestic abuse War

s
shayshortt
Sep 16, 2015

Coarse Language: Occasional swearing.

s
shayshortt
Sep 16, 2015

Other: Substance abuse

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t
thebritlass
Sep 21, 2017

...we're a Great Mystery. Everything. Said the things they done, those old-time Indians, was all about learnin' to live with that mystery. Not solving it, not comin' to grips with it, not even tryin' to guess it out. Just bein' with it. I guess I wish I'd learned the secret to doing that.

s
shayshortt
Sep 16, 2015

"All’s I’m tryin’ to say is that we never had the time for learnin’ about how to get by out here. None of us did. White man things was what we needed to learn if we was gonna eat regular. Indian stuff just kinda got left behind on accounta we were busy gettin’ by in that world.”

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c
csrestall
Dec 06, 2017

csrestall thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Summary

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c
csrestall
Dec 06, 2017

The kid also known as Frank has always lived with the Old Man, and does not know much about where he comes from or his own story. His father (not the Old Man) calls on him to help him make a journey through the wilderness to a specific place where he would like to die. He is suffering from a failing liver due to alcoholism. Throughout the course of the journey Frank learns his history through the stories of his father, and also narrates some of his own childhood experiences. His father tells of his time as a child, the abuse of his mother, the death of his father (Frank's grandfather), the Vietnam war, meeting Frank's mother, and how she died. Frank tells of each time that he saw his father as a child and thier subsequent shattered relationship. He is able to forgive his father before he dies, and buries him before returning home.

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