No Man's River
Farley Mowat: No Man’s River (New York: Carroll & Graf, 2004)
I am glad that I had already read People of the Deer and The Desperate People before I picked up No Man’s River. This book really is a triumph of storytelling. I know that there are criticisms of Mowat’s blending of factual reporting and fictional storytelling, but this does need to be judged in the context of his subject matter. The people of the far north live immersed in a tradition of storytelling. The oral tradition and the refinement of story by telling it several different times, with several adjustments to the details is a method of conveying meanings that are deeper than simply a list of facts. Mowat achieves this kind of storytelling in No Man’s River.
I found myself to be caught up in the story even though I knew parts of it from my recent reading of other Mowat books. His characters, including himself, are strong people in the face of a brutal environment. His ability to speak of indigenous, Metis and newcomers as people who can communicate and develop genuine concern for one another is an important message in 21st Century Canada where the struggles for reconciliation will yet take hundreds of years of careful storytelling and listening.
I’m glad I discovered Mowat this year and that I had the opportunity to read his books in a short period of time. He is a writer whose works will continue to be important in the story of Canada and in the struggles of her people for generations to come.