By Melissa Hansen
The word “strangers” resonates through every word and every chapter. The title rarely holds such a strong attachment when I am reading a novel. David Robertston, the author, is a Manitoba writer who has spoken to students at Red River College. Robertson grew up in Norway House Cree Nation. His first-hand experience gives Strangers a poetic and elegant narrative.
Cole, the main character, is a young man who was removed from his home at a young age after tragedy struck. Losing both parents at a young age, Cole’s aunt and grandmother moved him to Winnipeg to protect him. The community in Wounded Sky never forgot him, even after 10 years.
Upon his return home as a teenager, the nightmares that had been haunting him return. The reaction from the community and his friends make him assess his decisions. Cole is stuck between walking away, and facing his past right in the face.
David Robertson captures moments that make you assess, and make you question. He manages to bring you into the mind of a young man and helps you, help him evolve in the story.
The book is a fun, light read. His use of descriptive words is stunning. There are moments where I would close my eyes and be able to visualize everything that was going on perfectly.
Robertson manages to make the reader feel like a part of the story. You can feel the cold, thick, resonating air of the arena, you can grasp the lingering stares in your own mind.
Indigenous communities in Manitoba can seem like a mystery to those who have never visited. It’s easy to have an opinion, it’s easy to build lives around the unknown and ignore what is happening around us. The characters in Wounded Sky make you think about the people and the places around us that we choose to ignore out of fear.
Robertson challenges those fears, he introduces ‘city folk’ to the reality that is just a hop, skip and a jump away. He does so by touching on spirituality, fear and acceptance. It’s a complex, but intriguing style that isn’t done often.
In Strangers, Robertson has managed to poetically embrace culture while challenging it. Facing real life issues of mental illness and poverty, and making a statement by letting people assess situations.
Strangers introduces a character to new people, people he didn’t know. But it also introduced its readers to a world that could be described as strange. It can make you think, it can make you look at your life and compare situations. Because more times than not, these ‘moments’ are interchangeable.
It’s a novel written for a young audience that can make adults think.