The Red Canoe

Agora. Mar. 2022. 340p. ISBN 9781951709723. pap. $16.95. M
When Buck’s wife files for divorce, he considers suicide. He realizes, though, that he still has his boat-building hobby, and there’s a feral cat he wants to tame. There’s also a girl who appears at the end of his driveway. Like Buck, Lucy Walters is Ojibwe; they also share a deep feeling of pain. Lucy has lost everything except her father. He’s a cop, and when he’s not at their trailer, his colleagues sexually abuse the 15-year-old Lucy. The first one who raped her warned her not to tell her father, or they’d “take care” of him. Buck recognizes Lucy’s need to restore her identity, so he teaches her to build a canoe to help her journey to survival. His wife always said he needed a project, someone to save. This time, he and Lucy, along with a couple friends who are outsiders, work to take down the men who should be protecting them.
VERDICT Similar to David Heska Wanbli Weiden’s Winter Counts, Johnson’s (“Paul Two Persons Mysteries” series) novel is a powerful story of Indigenous people who are abused but also determined to battle brutality and corruption themselves when they can’t rely on the authorities.
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