Will attends a regular public school, is watched over by a white couple, and at home is exposed to white substances: alcoholism and drugs. When his English teacher, Mrs. Smythe, offers to adopt Will, he must make a choice that all Indigenous people in Canada are forced to make: either willingly embrace white culture or preserve what is left of Native tradition on the reserve. Although they live in an Aboriginal community, Will and his family are far removed from a pre-colonial lifestyle.
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As in Monkey Beach, both Traplines and Blood Sports are written from the point of view of teenagers or people who have had to learn to become adults rather early. However, where the rites of passage in Monkey Beach are accompanied by a sense of community based on legends and a presence of the supernatural, all the stories in Traplines and Blood Sports are focused on people growing up trapped in the gritty and dysfunctional fringes of society, dealing with violence, addiction, despair, and seemingly unable to grasp at any opportunity that could lead a way out of it, even if it seems to be offered.
Violent and gritty but at the same time moving. The story follows Tom, who wants to escape the world of crime and addiction and settle down with his young family. Tom is haunted and - literally - hunted by his drug-dealing, video-blogging psychopath cousin Jeremy, who will stop at nothing to wage revenge on people who he thinks have betrayed him.
If you need trigger warnings - this book pretty much has all of the ones I can think of, and more. Nothing had ever existed but the pain. He squealed, he heard the sounds ripping through his throat, and he fought the ropes. He screamed and he screamed and he threw himself forward so the ropes would tighten and it would end. I would recommend her work to students of literature and self-described common folk alike. She was hailed as a young writer with enough literary promise to eventually become a Carol Shields or even an Alice Munro.
Now let me admit straightaway that I cannot for the life of me see what all the fuss was about. True enough, these stories highlight the plight of forgotten adolescents existing on a knife edge in a world This collection of four novellas from Canadian writer Eden Robinson received extravagant praise from critics and fellow-authors alike when it was first published in True enough, these stories highlight the plight of forgotten adolescents existing on a knife edge in a world of narcotics, casual sex, uncaring parents and physical abuse -- a world where worries about a telephone bill or the next rent payment are constant companions, where every second girl sports a purple or a pink Mohawk and where home-made tattoos are the norm.
I will be the first person to admit that the social conditions prevalent in these tales need to be spotlighted, and that Robinson have a right and a duty to tap into this substandard world. I will also go so far as to say that she brings this sometimes-alien milieu to light in images that have the power to move and to dismay in equal measure.
But try as I might, I could not really engage with any of the characters to the extent that I could share in their pain and frustrations. Fact is, I found some of the stories rather drawn-out and pointless. The best story in the collection is "Dogs in Winter". Although I am at a loss as to why it is called that. The story concerns itself with the unimaginable effect on a young girl of having a serial killer for a mother.
What I like about this one, is the fact that Robinson tells it in a non-linear fashion. She gives us tantalizing flashes of key incidents without any attempt to spoon-feed the reader. The lack of chronology may be confusing and disorientating at first glance, but everything comes together with a very satisfying click -- and even then, there are some questions purposely left unanswered that just add to the strangeness of it all. I got the impression that this was perhaps intended as the high point of the collection.
It started off intriguingly enough, with an epileptic high school student awaiting the arrival of his older cousin -- a young man who recently suffered a dishonorable discharge from the military and now on his way to Vancouver to find something else to do. It was not very clear, at least to me, what exactly his purpose was -- another example of my obtuseness. But although the narrative came on like a rampant lion, it soon resembled a little whipped cur with its tail between its legs.
It carried on for far too long and did not say all that much in the end. The remaining "novellas" -- the title piece "Traplines" and the concluding story "Queen of the North" -- had two more protagonists eking out intolerable existences in less than ideal circumstances. The first one featured a set of parents not worthy of the name, while the second one was enhanced by a sadly-ironic ending.
Analysis Of The Short Story Trapline
Summary Of Trapline By Eden Robinson