Dystopic fiction might not be the best bedtime reading these days – depending on your level of anxiety – but Waubgeshig Rice’s novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, is worthy, despite the dark set-up.
It’s gripping. The main characters are incredibly relatable. And, for a white-bodied person, it’s a pretty powerful experience to be able to read alongside a First Nations community and drop your imagination into place, and understand how the unfolding drama feels, from a different cultural point-of-view.
This book landed on my radar after I saw a Facebook post, asking students in the English program at Ts’zil Learning Centre, which book they’d like to study and discuss. The candidates (if I recall this accurately) were The Marrow Thieves, Heart Berries, and Moon of the Crusted Snow.
Moon of the Crusted Snow got rave reviews. And I can see why.
Set on an Anishinaabe reserve in a fictitious version of Northern Ontario, the story follows Evan Whitesky, a young man and father who is doing his best to live well and take care of his family, after the power suddenly goes out. Cell phones go down. Landlines follow. Cut off from the outside world, the remote community navigate the inconvenience of this, as it becomes increasingly apparent that something really grim has happened out there in civilisation. Then a visitor arrives on the reserve, and the community leaders are forced to deal with a strange danger in their midst.
The story felt really honest – and the challenges for the community’s Chief and Council were gripping to watch unfold.
Check it out.