TITLE: Medicine Walk AUTHOR: Richard Wagamese 246 pages

With the tremendous success of his bestseller Indian Horse still in our minds, Richard Wagamese offers us Medicine Walk

 

Mark conliffe

 

With the tremendous success of his bestseller Indian Horse still in our minds, Richard Wagamese offers us Medicine Walk, a beautifully and painfully honest novel about a father and son’s last days together.

Nearing death after years of hard drinking, Eldon Starlight asks his sixteen-year-old son Frank to take him to a place he knows in the backwoods to die, and then to bury him there. To this point Eldon has spent little time with Frank, and for Frank that time has consisted of hurtful experiences and broken promises, which he can’t shake. He has been raised instead by an older man and from him has learned how to live in BC’s wilderness. But he agrees to his father’s request, and they set off on a journey of physical and emotional struggles and discoveries.

The journey is the “medicine walk,” and it’s not just Eldon’s last effort for healing; it also is Frank’s chance to treat pains from the meetings with his father and unanswered questions about his mother. And, we learn quickly that walking and telling stories can be two of the most powerful forms of healing and treatment.

The importance of stories — yes, of their content, but also of creating them, of telling them to others and ourselves, of listening to and interpreting them, of realizing that some should have been told earlier, and of learning why some have certain tellers, audiences, and times to be told — lies at the heart of Medicine Walk, and with stunning grace Wagamese reveals this importance to us and makes it clear to Frank and Eldon.

This importance is not just the force that inspires the novel’s scenes; stories are the source on which characters live in its world. Becka, the one person Frank and Eldon meet on their journey, helps Frank to understand this point as they watch Eldon, who is sleeping fitfully, shivering despite being close to the cabin’s fire. Frank wishes aloud that he had learned much earlier the stories his father is telling him only now:

“I get that some things take

some workin’ up to. But he

could die tonight fer all I know.”

“He won’t.”

His father moaned and the

kid regarded him. “He don’t

seem much of a warrior to

me.” He sipped at the tea.

“Who’s to say how much of

anythin’ we are?” Becka said.

“Seems to me the truth of us

is where it can’t be seen.

Comes to dyin’, I guess we all

got a right to what we be

lieve.”

“I can’t know what he be

lieves. He talks a lot, but I still

got no sense of him. So far it’s

all been stories.”

She only nodded. “It’s all we

are in the end. Our stories.”

 

Frank wants answers, he wants the one story that connects gaps in his past and helps him figure out who he is and who his father is, but only with time and listening will he understand that there have been challenges in telling stories that make Eldon who he is. To learn what these challenges are — and what they mean for his father and him — Frank must finish the medicine walk with Eldon.

 

 

Just Posted

Province announces $2.5-million boost to increase tourism in B.C.’s resort towns

Changes to RMI funding are bringing more money to places like Harrison and Tofino

Rossland moves forward on single-use plastic bag ban bylaw

Bylaw given first reading at last council meeting

Premier Horgan talks jobs and opportunity at Castlegar mill

Upbeat visit brings message of hope and co-operation among Kootenay forestry players

Recycle major appliances for free in Kootenay Boundary

Free service begins May 1; Refrigerant appliances not included at Greater Trail regional landfill

Gas venting from tanker at Castlegar rail yard posed no danger: officials

Argon gas discharged from a CP tanker car on Friday, April 19.

VIDEO: Large dust devil swirls through town in B.C.’s interior

Residents look on as column climbs about 90 feet into the air

Blaine, Wash. inn owner, charged with smuggling people into B.C., granted bail

Robert Joseph Boule ordered to turn away anyone indicating a plan to enter Canada illegally

RCMP arrest B.C. man following threatening Vaisakhi Facebook post

Post made reference to pressure cooker bomb at massive Surrey parade

Second dump site of Dungeness crab discovered in northern B.C.

DFO confident new site related to larger April 2 dump

Northern B.C. high school student reaches 100,000 followers on YouTube

Voice actor, animator, Jericho Fortune has more than 30-million views on his channel GTAGAMER222

B.C. woman pleads for people to stop stealing daffodils meant to honour cancer victims

Cynthia Bentley honours memory of those lost to cancer by planting 100 daffodils each year

University mourns student who died in B.C. canoeing accident

Andrew Milner, 19, was in his second year with the University of Calgary’s basketball program

Canfor temporarily shutting down lumber mills across B.C.

Low lumber prices and the high cost of fibre are the cause of curtailment, according to the company

Two in critical condition, several still in hospital after Langley deck collapse

Close relative Satwant Garcha makes daily trips to visit those injured at the wedding

Most Read