Through the fresh, often irreverent voice of young Molly Bell we are taken on a journey of discovery to a small northern town in the 1960’s.
As the novel opens Molly stands on the outside of the fence of a residential school looking in – looking into the eyes of Nakina, a young Ojibway girl trying to escape. In high school they meet again and a strong friendship is born, but the fence is always between them – a symbol of the hand that fate has dealt. Molly, white, stands on the outside, free. Nakina, Ojibway, stands on the inside, a prisoner to cultural genocide and abuse. This is the reality they share in this small town under the shadow of the Stone Man.
The Stone Man, the Sleeping Giant, is a stone formation - a series of mesas and sills that form the shape of a man lying across the harbour. He is also mythology, holding the legend of Nanabijou who lay down across the harbor to protect a great secret of the Ojibwe people. While the fence symbolizes separation and racism, the Stone Man represents a primal force that transcends human suffering with humanity and hope.
This is an exquisite coming-of-age story, rich with details of such microscopic truthfulness that by times your heart will burst. In her journey from adolescence to young womanhood, we are offered a narrative, which is never predictable, and we are taken, sometimes shaken into some unfamiliar and uncomfortable territory.
Wake the Stone Man beautifully navigates a situation too rarely explored in current fiction: cross-cultural friendship, and the circumstances of birth and destiny. This is a novel about the need to belong and the meaning of home.
McDougall's writing is brave, fierce, funny and wise. We are better and we know better - after having read Wake the Stone Man.
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