Book Review – Birdie – Tracey Lindberg
- Book: Birdie
- Author: Tracey Lindberg
- Genre: Fiction
- Year of Release: 2015
- Read 288-page hardcover edition in July 2016.
This intense drama follows the life and discovery of Bernice Meetoos, a Cree woman who has left her home in northern Alberta and made her way to Gibsons, British Columbia, experiencing much tragedy and hardship along the way. Bernice, or Birdie, must use lessons from her people, and follow visions presented, to find a way out of trying and desperate situations. At the same time, her aunt Val and cousin Freda are trying to do what they can in the present time to help Birdie, knowing they were not there in the past when she needed help to escape horrific incidents.
This novel was certainly a moving portrayal of a complex and ultimately powerful woman, Birdie, who was also surrounded by other powerful female family members. This focus on powerful feminine Indigenous characters was certainly one of the strengths of the novel. It was welcome to read a novel where all main characters, and certainly the characters who were making a difference in the story and in helping each other, were a collection of women. Although nobody was perfect, and some of these characters admitted feeling shame or sadness at what had occurred in the past, they had made commitments to try and make things better in the present and future. Creating characters that were not perfect, and that instead had shades of grey in their past, was another positive element to this novel.
Author Tracey Lindberg has done a good job of creating a complex, nuanced, powerful story, and particularly in the second half of the novel, the drama and tension builds, and we start to really care about what is happening to these various women in the novel
That being said, one of the unfortunate things about this novel is that the first half is quite confusing in sections, and generally slow. It takes some time for us to get introduced to all the characters, and really understand how they relate to each other. Because the style of the novel is part vision quest, part poetry, part narrative, it is sometimes confusing to fully grasp what is going on. Although this may work for some people, for ohers the mix in style of writing, combined with the slow start, led to a lack of clarity around where the story was going until much later in the novel.
Overall, the novel did have a great second half, and the focus on female characters was positive. Learning more about these characters and about Indigenous women and issues as the novel got into the second half was a strong element. However, the first half of the novel felt slow, choppy, and confusing, and in that way it detracted from the overall story.
Overall: 3 stars out of 5 stars