Thursday, November 30, 2006

A Christmas Gift for the Man in Your Life


Would you like to give your husband, boyfriend, significant other (or whatever) a great book for Christmas and enjoy reading it yourself when he’s finished with it? (I’m assuming a female audience here.) If so, I suggest purchasing Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden.

If you’re familiar with my blog, you know I live with four males. We’re all great readers and while we each possess our own unique taste in books, two of those males (so far) loved this book — as did I. Three Day Road was also a hit with my (all female) Book Club. Perhaps males relish the war scenes more so than I (the trench warfare described is gruesome and brutal) but there’s so much else in this book to savor. It is a beautifully written, well-crafted and well-researched novel.

Set in northern Ontario and the WWI battlefields of Europe, this is a story of two young Cree snipers who enlist in the Canadian Army. It is also the story of Niska, a fascinating Cree woman who — with her indomitable spirit, love and determination — attempts to rescue one of these young men from the ravages of war.

Three characters — three stories. The number three is an integral part of this story. The title refers to the aboriginal belief in the three day journey between life and death. In the midst of battle one of the young men, Xavier, reflects upon the obsession with the number three by the military and the world of the white man. I found this fascinating. He notes the infantry, the cavalry and the artillery as well as the front line, the support line and the reserve line. During breaks from battle, the soldiers indulge in food, rest and women. In terms of religion, there is the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Also noted is the military superstition as to lighting three cigarettes with one match — a risky thing to do on the battlefield.

The art of story telling is also an integral part of the novel. Story telling not only possesses healing powers but enables us to preserve our traditions and heritage. Would that it had the capability of teaching mankind that the horrors of war should be avoided at all costs. The inescapable and tragic damage inflicted upon the spirits and bodies of those who must fight such wars is demonstrated in the recounting of the fates of these two young warriors.

"We all fight on two fronts, the one facing the enemy, the one facing what we do to the enemy."

This is a story that teaches (but does not preach) and makes you care. While at times horrifying and frightening, it is also an affirmation of both the power of love and the strength of the human spirit.

4 comments:

ragdoll said...

Oh, how I loved this novel. I was so disappointed it didn't win any of the major prizes last year. Of the sixty-odd books I read during that time (2005), it was definitely in the top 10, right next to Joan Didion's "The Year of Magical Thinking" and Curtis Sittenfeld's "Prep."

Beth said...

Ragdoll - I also loved "The Year of Magical Thinking" and just checked out "Prep." It's been added to my Amazon Wish List.

DJ Cayenne said...

Sounds fascinating. The covers available on the U.S. versions are not as interesting (powerful?) as the one you have here. Interesting. I'll store this review away should I make it through my "to read" pile any time soon.

Beth said...

D. J. - I did note the other covers and prefer “mine.” As for “to read” lists — mine is increasing at a tremendous rate since I began blogging (one of the biggest pluses).