________________ CM . . . . Volume XIV Number 4 . . . . October 12, 2007

cover

The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel.

Drew Hayden Taylor.
Toronto, ON: Annick Press, 2007.
215 pp., pbk. & hc., $10.95 (pbk.), $21.95 (hc).
ISBN 978-1-55451-099-3 (pbk.), ISBN 978-1-55451-100-6 (hc.).

Grades 8-11 / Ages 13-16.

Review by Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen.

*** ½ /4

excerpt:

Tiffany’s heart leapt up into her throat and practically out into the forest. Instinctively, she lurched to the left and hit her head on the doorway of the treehouse, actually seeing stars like in all those cartoons she had watched, Cradling her head, she scrambled to the side of the treehouse, away from the proximity of the voice. She tried to scream, but she couldn’t catch her breath. Instead, she merely grunted. A very unappealing, unsophisticated grunt.

She could hear more rustling outside, this time making its way along the tree branch to the treehouse itself. It or he (definitely a masculine voice), or whatever it was, was getting closer. In a few seconds it would be in the treehouse with her. Tiffany had nothing to protect herself with. To put it mildly, Tiffany Hunter was terrified and assumed this to be her last few moments on this Earth.

Suddenly, a large dark figure appeared in the doorway, blocking the sparse stars peeking through the forest. Frozen with fear, Tiffany watched the thing pause before gliding through the small door.

“You realize everyone is looking for you. And you hit your head, yet again.”

 

Sixteen-year-old Tiffany Hunter lives on the Otter Lake Reserve with her father and grandmother. Her mother has moved to Edmonton to live with a white man, leaving Tiffany behind. She is failing school and fighting with her father. Tiffany does have a new boyfriend, Tony Banks, a white boy from nearby Baymeadow. Tiffany’s sense of alienation from her family increases when her father tells her she is going to live in the basement because they are going to have a lodger for a few days.

     Pierre L’Errant is not a typical lodger. He is from Europe but looks Native and knows a lot about the history of Otter Lake. He sleeps during the day. He prefers to lodge in the basement rather than Tiffany’s room. And he happens to be a vampire.

     The Night Wanderer is the story both of Tiffany Hunter and Pierre L’Errant as their paths cross over and over. Drew Hayden Taylor has taken aspects of several different genres and blended them into a unique and fascinating story that will appeal to a wide group of readers.

     Tiffany Hunter and Pierre L’Errant are the primary narrators of the story, providing both contrasts and similarities to each other. Keith Hunter and Grandma Ruth act as narrators in certain scenes. Some of the minor characters also act as narrators for their scenes. This changing voice of narration adds a depth to the story in the characters’ own words rather than those of the narrator. This allows the reader to see the characters and what they are going through more clearly than would happen in a more conventional narration style.

     The changing voice of the narrator also adds to the changing pace of the story. In terms of real time, The Night Wanderer takes place in a very short time period. However, the story is not rushed. At some points, events happen quickly, and at others there is a more meditative feel to the pace of the story. This allows for the characters to develop throughout the story and also helps to build tension when necessary. Tension is also built up in various scenes through the shortening of the scenes where the resolution of the situation is not completely apparent. After all, Pierre L’Errant is a vampire.

     The sense of isolation that Tiffany feels throughout the story –– isolation from her family and later her friends -- is reflected by the isolation that Pierre L’Errant feels from the human race and his childhood. This feeling of isolation, although common in many teen stories, is taken to a different level by the similarities and contrasts between Tiffany and Pierre. Tiffany’s isolation is mainly mental through the barriers she has created. Pierre’s isolation is physical as he has not been human for centuries. Yet their isolation brings the two of them together. The theme of isolation is emphasized throughout by the additional isolation between the two communities of Baymeadow and Otter Lake and between the present and the past, especially the disconnection of the current generation of Otter Lake residents from the Anishinabe language. Only a few people now speak the language fluently, cutting the current generation off from their past as permanently as Pierre was cut off from his past.

     Drew Hayden Taylor’s sense of description provides additional depth to the story. The trees, the rooms, the voices are all brought to life for the reader, even for those who have never been to central Ontario. The rich description makes the setting a character in its own right, as necessary to the story as Tiffany and Pierre.

     Drew Hayden Taylor has created a fantastic story, weaving together the different elements of Native and gothic fiction into a marvelous and spellbinding blend.

Highly Recommended.

Daphne Hamilton-Nagorsen is a student in the School of Library, Archival and Information Studies at UBC, Vancouver, BC.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364
Hosted by the University of Manitoba.
 

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