Author: Eden Robinson
Format: Hardcover, 326 pages
Publisher: Alfred A. Knopf Canada
Pub Date: February 7, 2017
Summary from Publisher:
Everyone knows a guy like Jared: the burnout kid in high school who sells weed cookies and has a scary mom who’s often wasted and wielding some kind of weapon. Jared does smoke and drink too much, and he does make the best cookies in town, and his mom is a mess, but he’s also a kid who has an immense capacity for compassion and an impulse to watch over people more than twice his age, and he can’t rely on anyone for consistent love and support, except for his flatulent pit bull, Baby Killer (he calls her Baby)–and now she’s dead.
Jared can’t count on his mom to stay sober and stick around to take care of him. He can’t rely on his dad to pay the bills and support his new wife and step-daughter. Jared is only sixteen but feels like he is the one who must stabilize his family’s life, even look out for his elderly neighbours. But he struggles to keep everything afloat…and sometimes he blacks out. And he puzzles over why his maternal grandmother has never liked him, why she says he’s the son of a trickster, that he isn’t human. Mind you, ravens speak to him–even when he’s not stoned.
You think you know Jared, but you don’t.
- From Chapters-Indigo website
The Son of a Trickster is a graphic and intense novel about an Indigenous teenage boy named Jared whose life in a reservation community is more than complicated.
The book, like his upbringing, begins in an uncommon, yet hopeful way—one with a father, a mother, and a home—but quickly delves into a history of hardship and abuse.
What is stark about this novel, is its raw narrative, one that doesn’t hold back, but is surprisingly abrasive and edgy, and yet can evoke a subtle tenderness between characters especially between Jared and his mother, Marguerite (otherwise known as Maggie).
Jared’s world is one in which poverty, drugs, partying, neglect, and violence become a natural and habitual lifestyle, one that Jared understands, accepts, and resigns to as he mildly navigates through his life and the strange things that seem to be happening to him.
This kind of setting and dialogue is not only unsettling, but blatantly opens up Jared’s world to the reader in an intimate and graphic display.
The novel is as character-driven as it is volatile where the characters themselves seem wonderfully absurd and yet also by their strangeness seem even more unique, vulnerable, and disturbing.
These relationships range from the harshly temperamental and overtly protective and violent mother, Maggie to the inept, kind, yet irresponsible father, Phil. There’s the absent maternal grandmother, Anita Moody and the sassy paternal grandmother, Nana Sophia. There’s the violent male figures like David, Ritchie, and Dylan to the nurturing, yet heavily burdened neighbours, Mr. and Mrs. Jaks. And of course, there is the mysterious Wee’git and the strange, intelligent, yet hauntingly disturbed girlfriend, Sarah.
Together, these characters make up the daily, yet torrential life of Jared Moody.
As a reader, you’d think this kind of displacement and seedy, violent setting would be more than enough to make a story, but within the madness of Jared’s violent lifestyle is what is at the heart of the book—magic.
When magic starts appearing in the novel, things start to get really interesting. What appears to be stoned hallucinations quickly evolve into creative, yet terrifying images of fantasy and magic, which unravels itself as Jared’s identity and knowledge of himself and his genealogy become more transparent.
There’s also a reoccurring saying in the book, which stays with Jared throughout the novel: The world is hard. You have to be harder. And so, as the novel progresses, Jared himself, must prepare for more strength and courage.
As magic is drawn to magic, readers who enjoy the darker side of paranormal fantasy and are interested in the magic of Indigenous culture and folklore, will flock to this novel like fireflies.
The Son of a Trickster is the first of a planned trilogy.
Characters: 3.5 stars
Plot: 3.5 stars
Language/Narrative: 3 stars
Dialogue: 4 stars
Pacing: 4 stars
Cover Design: 4 stars
A special thanks to Penguin Random House for providing me with a copy of the book, Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson in exchange for an honest review.
About the Author:
Haisla/Heilstuk novelist Eden Robinson is the author of a collection of short stories written when she was a Goth, called Traplines. Her two previous novels, Monkey Beach and Blood Sports, were written before she discovered she was gluten-intolerant and tend to be quite grim, the latter being especially gruesome because, halfway through writing the manuscript, Robinson gave up a two-pack-a-day cigarette habit and the more she suffered, the more her characters suffered. Son of a Trickster was written under the influence of pan-fried tofu and nutritional yeast, which may explain things but probably doesn’t.
- From the novel.