Three Day Road tells the story of cousins Xavier and Elijah, Canadian snipers who serve with distinction during the First World War. The cousins are young Cree Indians who join the Canandian Expiditionary Force to prove their bravery to one another. Though both are excellent snipers, they have very different personalities. Xavier is raised by their aunt Niska, a medicine woman, and last Cree to live in a traditional manner in the wilderness outside of Moose Factory, Ontario. Xavier’s English is weak and he does not integrate well into Caucasian society. Elijah on the other hand is raised by nuns in a town orphanage. He is charismatic, has a gift for words, and easily navigates among whites regardless of the nature of his private thoughts. The atrocities of the Great War turn their provincial worldview upside down. Their different personalities are reflected in their divergent reactions to the death around them. Only one cousin returns to an elderly Niska. Healing her surviving nephew from the physical and psychological wounds he obtained during the war will test her magic.
I have an interest in the literature of indigenous peoples and WW1 history. Three Day Road provided a refreshing enough take on both to keep me enthralled. The story of the cousins was inspired by real life First Nations sniper Francis Pegahmagabow, or “Peggy.” Because the cousins are snipers, you’ll get all sorts of technical wonk about the guns they use, plus the drama of the highest stakes competition between Canadian and German snipers. Through flashbacks we learn of Niska’s education in the healing arts and the Cree’s encounters with Europeans before the establishment of contemporary Canada. If you don’t know what a windigo is you’ll have to read the book to find out. Personally, I love a good windigo story.
If you get the book on CD the voices of Niska and Xavier are performed by two different actors so you’ll get the treat of both a mature female voice and a younger male voice. You’ll also get to hear the Cree words pronounced properly which, if you are like me, you’d just be mumbling through them otherwise.