My thoughts begin at the very beginning of the book, right below the author’s dedication to his wife, with the excerpt of Wendell Berry‘s “The Peace of Wild Things”. And, in case you’ve passed your copy of ‘Indian Horse’ along, here’s the excerpt:

I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

It set up a repeating, but soft, boom and echo in my core much like the feelings that arrive when an uncommon piece of music, heard for the first time, somehow seems familiar … almost a remembrance. As soon as I finished the last page, I returned to this excerpt.  I realized in the context of this book it is about the peace that comes, not from the natural world as I initially thought, but with recovery from severe trauma, the kind that invades not just the physical body, but the mind, heart and spirit.

11994903Wagamese repeatedly spins the reader closer, ever closer to the edge of the abyss, the horrors of the residential school system, then spares us, gliding away to the place that initially appears to save Saul, the game North Americans grew up on, hockey, an often brutal common ground.  As the game becomes steadily more dangerous and violent, Wagamese reveals ever more terrifying details of the abuse and torture these stolen children were subjected to, their disappearances, suicides and deaths.  

From an inside out point of view, Wagamese, using the frank inner language of his main character, Saul, artfully shows the connection between shame, despair, defeat and alcoholism, “The ultimate device [that] … lets you go on breathing but not really living … lets you move but not remember … lets you do but not feel.” (p. 216).

I appreciate that the author let the reader believe there is hope.

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