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
“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 born storyteller.”
“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.”
“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.”
“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.”
“Alexie, Erdrich, Momaday, Silko, Welch. If you haven’t already, add Richard Wagamese to the list of must-read, must-share Indigenous authors. Or, hell, take Indigenous out of the equation—Wagamese's latest book to come to the U.S., Indian Horse is a damn fine novel deserving of a wide-ranging audience. If you’ve read Wagamese before (and if you haven’t I beg you to read Medicine Walk, my favorite book of 2015) you already know what a master wordsmith he is. As in all of his novels, the heartbreaking story of Saul Indian Horse leaps off the page with a vibrance and insight into the human condition that lingers long after the final pages. I could talk about the plot but frankly, it doesn’t matter. This is a novel that has universal appeal to the human heart. Go read it. With his passing last year, we lost an unheralded novelist of the finest order.”
“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.”
“One of the rarest sorts of books: a novel which is both important and a heart-in-throat pleasure.”