In Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, the cautioned consequences of climate change have arrived. The Northern Ice has melted shifting coastlines inward, storms have become more powerful than ever causing numerous fossil fuel disasters and populations have begun to cluster in larger areas leaving small towns and communities behind.
Many people have lost the ability to dream and a believed cure lies within the bone marrow of First Nations people. Residential school inspired compounds are reintroduced as the Indigenous population is hunted by white Canadians. The story follows Frenchie and a group of other Native Canadians as they hope to evade the “men in the white coats” by moving North through Ontario.
Sound familiar? While the meat and potatoes of the novel is unique to the Canada Reads competition, the setting heavily mirrors American War with regards to a true climate catastrophe.
To be honest, I haven’t read a lot of YA (young adult) fiction. I’m not one of those people that stay away from it because it’s “childish” (I loved the Hunger Games), I just find that my interests lie mainly within violent crime fiction, mystery and horror. This is why Canada Reads is great, it puts books in front of me that I normally would never check out, which I love because The Marrow Thieves is an exceptional novel and I’d hate to think I would have missed it.
For a book that is a just a shade over two hundred pages with a cast of nearly a dozen central characters, Dimaline executes top-notch character development and world-building by including a handful of chapters written through individual viewpoints that detail each character’s lives prior to joining into this makeshift family. The rest of the book is told through Frenchie. Through Dimaline’s writing, I found myself traveling back to sixteen and struggling to come to grips with an impending adulthood I was not ready for as well as coping with emotions and hormones that were completely out of my control.
The horrors of the re-opened “schools” and the experiments on the Indigenous people are revealed to the reader as the novel progresses and the characters gradually peek behind the curtain. Adding an element of mystery to an already compelling story helped me to devour this book in only a few sittings.
I wouldn’t be surprised if The Marrow Thieves takes the whole Canada Reads competition. It’s definitely my favorite of the fiction books on the shortlist and I’d easily recommend it over American War or The Boat People.