About the Book
Winner of Canada Reads People's Choice award
A Globe and Mail top 100 book of 2012
2013-2014 First Nation Communities Read Selection
CODE's Burt Award for First Nations, Métis, and Inuit Literature
The story takes place in late 1950s Ontario, where eight-year-old Saul Indian Horse is torn from his Ojibway family and committed to one of Canada’s notorious Catholic Residential Schools. In this oppressive environment, Saul is denied the freedom to speak his language or embrace his Indigenous culture and he witnesses and experiences all kinds of abuse at the hands of the very people who were entrusted with his care. Despite this, Saul finds salvation in the unlikeliest of places and the most favourite of Canadian pastimes — hockey. Fascinated by the game, he secretly teaches himself how to play, and develops a unique and rare skill. It’s as if he has eyes in the back of his head and can see the game in a way no other player can.
Saul’s talent leads him away from the misery of the Residential School to a Northern Ontario Indigenous league and eventually to the pros - but the terrors of Saul’s past seem to follow him. Forced to confront painful memories and revelations, he draws on the strength of his ancestors and the understanding of his friends to gain the compassion he sorely needs to begin healing.
Saul Indian Horse’s story is one that needs to be shared with all Canadians - settler and Indigenous people alike. The story is one of loss and fear, but also one of hope and resilience. Indian Horse dramatically brings the dark history of Canada to the big screen and in the process tells a universal story of hope.
What People are Saying
"Indian Horse finds the granite solidity of Wagamese's prose polished to a lustrous sheen; brisk, brief, sharp chapters propel the reader forward. He seamlessly braids together his two traditions: English literary and aboriginal oral. So audible is Saul's voice, that I heard him stop speaking whenever I closed the book...Wagamese crafts an unforgettable work of art."
“…The hockey chapters are compelling; they evoke Sherman Alexie’s fiction that examines contemporary life on American Indian reservations through the lens of basketball. But it is as a story of reconciliation that this novel reveals Wagamese’s masterful subtly…In a single image, Wagamese complicates in blinding ways the entire narrative; in a single page, Indian Horse deepens from an enjoyable read to a gripping critique of Canada.”
"Wagamese has written one of the rarest sorts of books: a novel which is both important and a heart-in-throat pleasure."
"Indian Horse distills much of what Wagamese has been writing about for his whole career into a clearer and sharper liquor, both more bitter and more moving than he has managed in the past. He is such a master of empathy – of delineating the experience of time passing, of lessons being learned, of tragedies being endured – that what Saul discovers becomes something the reader learns, as well, shocking and alien, valuable and true."
"Richard Wagamese is a master storyteller, who blends the throb of life with spiritual links to the land, hard work, and culture to find success, his words take you into the soul of Indian Horse, to experience his pain, his growing resentments, his depression, and his fear which has to be faced if he is to regain the joy of life. This book is meant for youth, adults, and elders, to be shared, to be lived, and to be treasured for the clear message of hope and the need to go the distance."
"...raw and authentic."
"...Wagamese alternates between horror and Hockey Night in Canada, like he's an all-star centre flawlessly firing backhand shots."
"Richard Wagamese's writing is exceptional not only for its sensitivity but for a warmth that extends beyond the page. With a finely calibrated hand, he explores heritage, identity, nature, salvation, and gratitude in works that quietly celebrate storytelling’s vitality and power to transcend."
"Wagamese pulls off a fine balancing act: exposing the horrors of the country’s residential schools while also celebrating Canada’s national game."