Medicine Walk

Medicine Walk

eBook - 2015
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"A novel about the role of stories in our lives, those we tell ourselves about ourselves and those we agree to live by."
-- Globe and Mail

When Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, he has mixed emotions. Raised by the old man he was entrusted to soon after his birth, Frank is haunted by the brief and troubling moments he has shared with his father, Eldon. When he finally travels by horseback to town, he finds Eldon on the edge of death, decimated from years of drinking.

The two undertake difficult journey into the mountainous backcountry, in search of a place for Eldon to die and be buried in the warrior way. As they travel, Eldon tells his son the story of his own life--from an impoverished childhood to combat in the Korean War and his shell-shocked return. Through the fog of pain, Eldon relates to his son these desolate moments, as well as his life's fleeting but nonetheless crucial moments of happiness and hope, the sacrifices made in the name of love. And in telling his story, Eldon offers his son a world the boy has never seen, a history he has never known.
Publisher: Minneapolis : Milkweed Editions, [2015]
ISBN: 9781571319319
Characteristics: 1 online resource
text file
Additional Contributors: OverDrive, Inc. - Distributor

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Oct 19, 2017

Medicine Walk follows the journey of a half-indigenous boy who, against the backdrop of Canadian wilderness, discovers the history on which his life is built on. As 16-year-old Frank sets out to fulfill his dying father’s last wish, he comes face to face with his father’s harrowing past. He learns about the experiences that drowned his father in alcohol, and consequently, led him down the path of self-destruction. Throughout the story, the clarity and depth of descriptions absorb the reader’s attention in all ways. Along with bringing to life the natural beauty of rural Canada, Wagamese has spun a heart touching tale that illustrates anguish, anger and regret through a father-son relationship. Medicine Walk is unique, entertaining, and definitely worth reading. 5/5 Stars
- @VirtueofReading of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

Sep 21, 2017

Incredible prose and thought-provoking material.

Aug 17, 2017

Dull prose. Cliched characters. Melodramatic storytelling. Reads more like a Young Adult book, but too long and boring.

Jun 08, 2017

Excellent book; insightful and heart wrenching!

May 26, 2017

A terrific book with a great story to tell.

Apr 11, 2017

A magnificent piece of work. Wagamese succeeds in making us believe that despite all the failings arising from human frailty, despite all the betrayals of trust, broken promises, unfulfilled dreams, despite all of that and more, redemption is possible. Forgiveness may take a bit longer. In recounting the painful farewell between a sixteen-year-old and his miserable, alcoholic, dying father, a man he hardly knew, Wagamese traverses the full range of pain, recrimination, revelation, suffering that are part of the human condition. There is no room for joy here but there is a measure of acceptance and finally peace. There are many things to celebrate in this book, among them a skillful exploration of the aboriginal relationship with the natural world, joined with (and expressed through) eurocentric prose; a devastating account of close combat as it took place in the Korean War; and several loving, deeply personal descriptions of the western Canadian high country in all its glory.
A special note of thanks to Shelagh Rogers on the CBC for introducing me to the work of this remarkable writer, who regrettably passed away quite recently.

Feb 19, 2017

Franklin Starlight never knew his mother and the few encounters he's had with his alcoholic father have left him hurt and disappointed.

He's been raised on a small ranch in northern British Columbia by "the old man", who's taught him everything he knows about ranching and wilderness survival. He's also taught him about integrity, self-esteem and the qualities of good character.

At sixteen, Franklin's more a man then most.

When he gets a call from his father he's tempted to ignore it, but this time it's different. His father is dying of liver disease and wants Frank to help him travel to remote ridge forty miles out in the wilderness. Once there he wants "a warrior's death", buried sitting upright in the ground facing east "so he can follow the rising sun across the sky to the Happy Hunting Grounds."

As it's his father's dying wish, Frank feels duty-bound to oblige him. Besides, he's longing to know more about his family history including how he came to be brought up by the "the old man".

So begins the journey, from a small mill town into the wilderness, Frank walking and leading a horse his father rides because he is too weak to walk.

As each mile passes Franklin begins to know his father as the man slowly divulges his personal history, Franklin's history.

In Medicine Walk, Richard Wagamese has created a story that resonates on many levels. There's the portrayal of a Spartan way of life defined by hard manual labour, loyalty and integrity as conveyed in the characters of Franklin and "the old man".

Then there's the life Franklin's father has lived - one of never facing up to your demons and using alcohol to keep them at bay.

It's a story of the extremes of human nature - of doing the right thing no matter how tough and painful it is, and doing everything to avoid it.

Wagamese' dialogue is authentic, his characters complex, and his story is brutal in it's truth.

Jul 06, 2016

Beautifully written book that I couldn't put down.

Jun 03, 2016

This is the first book I've read by this author and I don't think it will be the last.

I am really partial to stories that have flashbacks, I like the feeling of reminiscing that happens when a story is written like this and this book is particularly good at it.

Eldon's back story from when he was growing up was quite enthralling. The stories of himself and his buddy, with their lack of fear and feelings of invincibility really evoked a certain type of character. I found it made it hard to match up that with the person he had become and it took until the last flashback to really make that equation work out.

Franklin is such a well turned out kid considering what the book tells us of his life. He comes across as both far older than his age and a kid who wants the family he never had. It's a hard character to write without either making him seem unrealistically old man like or childish, and I think the balance was just right here.

The Old Man in such an enigmatic character, even once you find out part of his story it still doesn't tell everything. I like that he's there as such a big influence for Franklin but he's also not there or at least his character doesn't get in the way of the father/son story being told.

I have heard this book described as quiet & subtle and I have to agree. It's an incredibly well done character study of a father and son.

Feb 25, 2016

The final days of a man's life - finally revealing his life to his son as they travel through the wilderness to Eldon's final resting place. It tells of Eldon's past, fraught with the pain of loss and escape from his memories through alcohol. It is a moving and bittersweet story.

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Add Notices

Sep 16, 2015

Sexual Content: Prostitution

Sep 16, 2015

Violence: Domestic abuse War

Sep 16, 2015

Coarse Language: Occasional swearing.

Sep 16, 2015

Other: Substance abuse


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Sep 21, 2017

...we're a Great Mystery. Everything. Said the things they done, those old-time Indians, was all about learnin' to live with that mystery. Not solving it, not comin' to grips with it, not even tryin' to guess it out. Just bein' with it. I guess I wish I'd learned the secret to doing that.

Sep 16, 2015

"All’s I’m tryin’ to say is that we never had the time for learnin’ about how to get by out here. None of us did. White man things was what we needed to learn if we was gonna eat regular. Indian stuff just kinda got left behind on accounta we were busy gettin’ by in that world.”


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