This is a highly-acclaimed Canadian novel that my daughter read a few years ago and has recommended to me several times since. Now that it’s on the list for this year’s Canada Reads, at a time when I’m also looking for more books by indigenous writers to add to my collection of books for the classroom, I thought it would be a good time to read it.
Son of a Trickster is the story of Jared, an indigenous teenager from BC who lives with his single mom and her current boyfriend. Most of the story is just the highly realistic trials and tribulations of Jared growing up as a bit of an outsider with a drug-using though loving mom, her string of sometimes-violent boyfriends, the dad who Jared ends up supporting rather than the other way around, and the network of relationships with teenage friends and enemies in school and around the community. But there’s another thread running through here, of magic realism rooted in First Nations mythology. Jared’s maternal grandmother calls him “son of a trickster” (hence the title) and the other world that Jared sometimes sees and hears calling to him — a world of talking ravens and vindictive otters, of people that appear human and aren’t, of magical fireflies that surround the girl next door — becomes dominant as the story goes on. Son of a Trickster (first of a trilogy) is both realistic coming-of-age story and also myth, and intriguing on both levels.
I should add a content warning: although I said that my daughter read it as a teen, it has a teenage protagonist, and I’m going to have copies in my (adult ed) classroom, there is definitely very adult content here — lots of swearing, some slightly graphic sex and a more graphic violence, domestic abuse, and lots and lots of drug and alcohol content. Jared’s world isn’t a pretty or sanitized one, but it feels real, and he’s an absolutely appealing kid caught in circumstances a kid shouldn’t have to deal with. Not always an easy read, but an interesting one, and very well-written.