Named a “Best Novel of the Decade” by Literary Hub
Now a major motion picture, produced by Clint Eastwood
Saul Indian Horse is a child when his family retreats into the woods. Among the lakes and the cedars, they attempt to reconnect with half-forgotten traditions and hide from the authorities who have been kidnapping Ojibway youth. But when winter approaches, Saul loses everything: his brother, his parents, his beloved grandmother—and then his home itself.
Alone in the world and placed in a horrific boarding school, Saul is surrounded by violence and cruelty. At the urging of a priest, he finds a tentative salvation in hockey. Rising at dawn to practice alone, Saul proves determined and undeniably gifted. His intuition and vision are unmatched. His speed is remarkable. Together they open doors for him: away from the school, into an all-Ojibway amateur circuit, and finally within grasp of a professional career. Yet as Saul’s victories mount, so do the indignities and the taunts, the racism and the hatred—the harshness of a world that will never welcome him, tied inexorably to the sport he loves.
Spare and compact yet undeniably rich, Indian Horse is at once a heartbreaking account of a dark chapter in our history and a moving coming-of-age story.
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Praise and Prizes
“Richard Wagamese is a born storyteller.”
“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.”
“While Wagamese’s fictionalized account is unflinching in its grim history of institutional cruelty, it also witnesses moments of human joy . . . With Indian Horse, Wagamese has sneakily written one of the great works of sport literature, filled with the kind of poetry that can redeem individual lives despite the systems that would see them destroyed.”
“A wonderful coming-of-age novel . . . When the story’s protagonist, Saul Indian Horse, lands in a treatment center after an alcoholic overdose, he’s encouraged to draft his life story—and it’s an incredible tale.”
“This flawless novel is an epic tragedy graced with tendrils of hope. . . . We are indebted to [Wagamese] for all he wrote, and especially for this book, a powerful fictional illumination of a Native North American life that echoes so many real ones.”
“Many indigenous authors have portrayed the horrific conditions endured by Native children in boarding schools in both the U.S. and Canada throughout much of the twentieth century. But perhaps no author has written a novel with such raw, visceral emotion about the lifelong damage resulting from this institutionalization as Wagamese . . . Wagamese's heart-wrenching tale was made into an award-winning movie, and it tells a story that will long haunt all readers.”
“Haunting and masterful . . . In spare, poetic language, Wagamese wrestles with trauma and its fallout, and charts the long, lonely walk to survival.”
“[A] chillingly beautiful book . . . Wagamese’s novel depicts the tragedies of residential schools (although they were more like child labor camps than schools) in the 1960s to ‘70s through the life of Saul Indian Horse, a young First Nations boy who escapes the horrors of the school through his passion for hockey.”
“An unforgettable work of art . . . 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.”
“Though the material is necessarily grim, Wagamese doesn’t fetishize despair, and allows his main character, Saul, the chance to feel something like joy as he discovers a preternatural talent for hockey. And though the sport might only represent a brief respite for Saul, from a lifetime of pain and loss, these sections contain the best writing about a sport I have ever read.”