Monday, 18 March 2019

The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline

Reviewer: Catriona Troth

What We Thought:

“Dreams get caught in the webs woven in your bones. That’s where they live, in that marrow there.”

It’s the mid 21st Century and the world’s freshwater supplies have been polluted beyond repair. The icecaps have melted, swallowing both the coastal cities and much of traditional lands of indigenous people. And now people have stopped dreaming – all that is except indigenous people. Not being able to dream has induced a kind of madness – and the world has turned to indigenous people to try to find a cure. To begin with, they come with curiosity, seeking to learn. But then scientists discover that the secret may lie in bone marrow. And they will take it, by any means necessary.

Settlers turn back to the infamous system of residential schools, where children were snatched from their parents and housed far away, with the aim of stripping them of their Indian identity. Only now, what the revived ‘schools’ want to strip is bone marrow.

French and his brother have already lost their parents. They are running for their lives, using everything they have ever learnt to stay ahead of the terrifying Recruiters.

“It probably started with the first pop of air against metallic plastic, no louder than a champagne cork. I imagined the school truancy officers – Recruiters, we called them – coming for us, noses to the wind, sunglasses reflecting the row of house behind which we were nestled.”

French will lose more, and gain more, than he can possibly imagine before a reckoning becomes possible.

Cherie Dimaline is from the Georgian Bay Metis community in Canada. I suspect if a non-indigenous author had written about Ceremony (for example), they would have felt they had to describe and explain. Dimaline, by contrast, treats it as part of the fabric of life. She doesn’t need to spell it out; she concentrates instead on how her characters relate to it – emotionally, mentally and spiritually.

Dark as the central theme is, The Marrow Thieves is also about family – the families we are born into and the families we make for ourselves – about loyalty and sacrifice in extreme circumstances, and about the agonies and ecstasies of young love.

“How could anything be as bad as it was when this moment existed in the span of eternity? How could I have fear when this girl would allow me this close? How could anything matter but this small miracle of having someone I could love?”

The Marrow Thieves a truly terrifying dystopia that is also an indictment of the on-going exploitation of indigenous people by settler communities. It demonstrates how voices that have traditionally been ignored have entirely new stories to tell. And how important it is that those stories are told by those to whom they belong.

You’ll Enjoy This If You Loved: Technologies of the Self by Haris A Durrani, Shadow Shaper by Daniel Jose Older, Rats by JW Hicks, Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese.

Avoid If You Dislike: Post-apocalyptic dystopias

Perfect Accompaniment: A glass of fresh, clean water – while we still can!

Genre: Young Adult, SciFi

Available on Amazon

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