Nanabush (the Ojibwe Trickster) has been dormant for awhile. He is startled back into action by the impending death of a woman he loved from his past.
Lillian was made to leave the reserve when she was younger to attend residential school. She turned her back on Nanabush when she left. Once at school she muses "I thought the world was full of magic. I don't think it is. Maybe once it was. Not any more."
She did return to the reserve and on her deathbed, has called Nanabush to Otter Lake - an Anishnawbe community in Ontario. She is worried about her family - her daughter Maggie, who is now the chief of the reserve, her youngest grandson Virgil, who really can't be bothered with school and her eccentric son Wayne, who lives alone on an island developing an aboriginal martial art form. Will he come? Is there still magic in the world?
Otter Lake is quite taken aback when Nanabush, now calling himself John, arrives in town riding a 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle. And this time, he's decided to present himself as a handsome young white man.
Although John is able to charm Maggie, Virgil and Wayne are suspicious of John and his intentions. And the raccoons don't seem very happy to see him either. They have a long standing feud running with Nanabush. " It was him. and he was back. This was good. In this part of the country, revenge was furry and wore a bandit's mask."
Motorcycles & Sweetgrass open with the line "Hey, wanna hear a good story? Supposedly it's true one. It's a long story but it goes something like this..."
Taylor had me laughing out loud, with the raccoon's revenge and John's antics. But his writing is thoughtful as well, touching on the the importance of family, community and the land. And hopeful - the belief that yes, there is magic left in the world.
The novel ends with "And that's how it happened to cousin of mine. I told you it was a long story. They're the best 'cause you can wrap one around you like a nice warm blanket."
Absolutely! I really enjoyed this book, from first page to last.
Drew Hayden Taylor is an accomplished writer, journalist, film maker and screenwriter. (Canadian readers - remember North of 60 and The Beachcombers?)
You can get your hands on a copy on Tuesday March 9th!