Saturday, April 12, 2014

Richard Wagamese, Medicine Walk

Seriously, that's all I want to say.

In Robert Wiersema's review of Medicine Walk (which I saw in the Edmonton Journal but was inexplicably headed "special to the Sun"), he sounded almost at a loss for words about what makes this book so great. Ask anybody who knows Wiersema, and you'll hear that's not something you expect to see. He's a better reviewer than I am, so check out what he has to say, but the thing is, Wagamese's genius in this book is just to tell the damned story and keep everything else the hell out of the way.

You know the story about sculptors, cutting away the parts of the rock that don't fit the sculpture? Yeah, that. Again, over to Wiersema: "Wagamese is able to evoke entire worlds out of the simplest of passages, a sensitivity to subtlety and the smallest of gestures." This novel is stuffed full of meaning, much of it suspended and inaccessible in tension and silences and tableaus.

Reading Medicine Walk, it's almost like I found myself living with my nerves on the outside of my body, much the same way that Wagamese's characters do: so much unsaid, so much unsayable, and so much information flooding in through the senses that the book contains more of the world than there is in the world we're walking around in.

If you're the kind of reader who wants to know stuff about the book before making your call, fine, but you're getting nothing from me. I'm giving you absolutely no details about Medicine Walk, so just trust me, all right? Admittedly I'm exhausted these days, more than a little on the edge, but some random stranger on the bus asked me what I was reading. I tried to summarize it in a couple of sentences, and I choked up. Choked. Right. Up.  It really is just that beautiful, that remarkable, that memorable, this novel.

Medicine Walk will be the best book to appear in Canada this year, and it's the best I've read in who knows how long. Write that down.

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