CanadaReads: Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

indian horseFor a novel that could be described as a tale about residential schools and hockey, I was pleasantly surprised. Those are two things that would not send me racing to read a novel. I never would have read Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese if it had not been a Canada Reads pick. That is one of the things i love about programs such as Canada Reads – they take me out of my reading comfort zone and it is usually worth it.

So I did not necessarily love Indian Horse, but I certainly enjoyed it. It is a deeply powerful novel. Oddly enough if you know me, it was the writing about hockey that moved me. Admittedly, I played hockey for three brief seasons during university but that did not spawn a passion for hockey in me. In fact, whatever is going on with the NHL this year is barely a blip on my radar other than to say that The National is never running late because of hockey.

Wagamese’s writing about hockey is breath taking. I was glued to the page, waiting to see elegance would arrive next on the page. Here is a small sample of a hockey scout describing the game.

“Hockey’s grace and poetry make men beautiful. The thrill of it lifts people out of their seats. Dreams unfold right before your eyes, conjured by a stick and a puck on a hundred and eighty feet of ice. The players? …. They’re conjurers.”

Wagamese takes the game of hockey and turns it into something mystical. It really is stunning.

What are Wagamese’s prospects when it comes to Canada Reads? Without having read the other contenders, I would have to say pretty good. This is a story that will appeal to all Canadians. Though chosen to represent British Columbia and Yukon, most of the narrative takes place in other regions of Canada and tells a story that occurred in virtually all regions of Canada.

Who would like this book? Obviously this book is going to appeal to CBC listeners and followers of Canad Reads. That almost goes without saying. Hockey lovers should also count themselves in as ones who would love this book. But I would hesitate to limit Indian Horse‘s appeal to those crowds. For me it was the writing that makes Indian Horse stand out. It was absolutely luscious. I will be keeping my eyes open for anything else Wagamese writes.


  1. I liked the book, but I don’t see what the hype is. It was. Good book, well written, but I thought the descriptions of hockey playing got boring after awhile. It is a book that will appeal to Canadians, sports fans – especially hockey fans. It also highlights important issues of residential schools and racism. But it didn’t grab me like it seems to be doing for others. Not my first pick to win Canada Reads either of the three I’ve read so far.

    • Jules, I think part of the reason i liked the book so much is because i wasn’t looking forward to reading it. I had low expectations in mind and it pleasantly surprised me. In terms of Canada Reads I think it has a great shot because of the hockey and residential schools. Remember Ron McLean is on the panel.
      BTW i love the way you have laid out your blog posts! Wish i’d thought of that.

      • Thanks!

        Ron McLean is a panellist, but he’ll be arguing against the book unless his is voted off early. So it should be interested to see his reactions on it. He the panellist to watch out for, because he is constantly debating with Don Cherry, who is quite vocal on everything.

  2. Pingback: Reading Diversely – A Top Ten List | 52 books or bust

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