The Spawning Grounds by Gail Anderson-Dargatz

I should probably start by saying that The Cure For Death By Lightning, one of Anderson-Dargatz’s earlier novels, was a real winner for me. I read it a thousand years ago, when it first came out, but i remember reading it in almost one sitting. Then I gave it to my mom and received late night phone calls saying she couldn’t put it down.

The Spawning Grounds is not that novel. Times have changed. I have changed and undoubtedly Anderson-Dargatz has changed. 

Like her other novels, The Spawning Grounds brings the stories of First Nations culture to life in the contemporary world of rural western Canada. Unsurprisingly, this infuses her writing with a fair dose of magic realism. As much as I don’t like magic realism, in this context it really seems to work. Additionally, in The Spawning Grounds, Anderson-Dargatz brings in a strong ecological message.

In spite of all of this, I wasn’t overly fond of the novel. I felt it dragged and was a little predictable. But the thing that bothered me the most was that this was a First Nations tale super-imposed on non-First Nations people. In this age where we are looking for more diversity in writing, I was surprised to see that it was “white Canadians” who were the protagonists of this tale grounded in Shuswap mythology and imagery.

Who would like this book? For fans of Anderson-Dargatz, it has been almost 10 years since her last novel. That alone will make many buy the book. However, if you are looking to diversify your reading I would lean more towards other first nations writers like Smoke River by Krista Foss.

I would like to thank the publisher for providing me with a review copy via NetGalley.


  1. I liked The Cure For Death By Lightning, but not enough to have me rushing out for her other books. I might read another one sometime, but I’m not in a hurry – for me, there are many other books I think I’ll like better. Thanks for this review, I’ve been wondering how it compares to her previous books.

  2. I have this sitting here, and was eager to get to it at first, but the longer it sits, the less I want to pick it up…I do want to read it, and I haven’t read the Lightning book yet, so maybe that will work out well for me? 🙂 ~Penny

  3. I really like magical realism, but there are other aspects of this book that keep me from getting excited about it. The ecological message seems like it could feel too heavy handed and the choice to have white protagonists seems very strange given the story.

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