I’m writing this review of The Marrow Thieves the night after I read it—and I started it this afternoon. It was a short and satisfying read, full to the brim with tension and atmosphere.
Frenchie is living in a post-apocalyptic world where Indigenous people are the only ones left who can dream. Everyone else has lost the ability to dream and a level of insanity has set in. The government of Canada, where Frenchie is from, puts into effect programs to capture Indigenous people and harvest their ability to dream from the marrow in their very bones. Frenchie is on the run with a group of people he considers his family. They take care of each other and protect each other, helping to stay away from the Recruiters (those who seek to capture them for their schools—yes, very reminiscent of the residential schools that stain Canada’s history with blood).
It’s no wonder that The Marrow Thieves has won so many awards and is so highly praised. It tells an important story that I believe would be valuable to everyone. The themes involved are all Indigenous in nature: storytelling, preservation of language and culture, and fear of persecution for that culture. As a Cree Métis person myself, I felt a terrifying connection to Frenchie and his friends. In this future, I would be hunted alongside these people. For something that is only a small part of who I am. For something you’d never be able to tell by looking at me. But my status is recorded in a database and I’m sure that’s where they started. It’s terrifying to think about.
I know it’s a long shot, but I hope that this novel is taught in high schools across Canada. I think everyone should read this novel and discuss it in a literary sense. And then in a literal sense. A very similar thing was already done to Indigenous people when children were taken from their families and brainwashed (among other terrible things) in the residential schools. As many Canadians know, some of the residential schools still stand. The Kamloops Residential School is still there, and you can see it every time you drive in and out of Kamloops to the east, which I did A LOT when I was going back and forth from university to my grandparent’s farm. You’d never think that the building was used for that since it’s far from the highway, but you can’t ever unknow that. To think that the government of the place I live did that once, it’s not hard to believe they would do it again if it benefited them and the majority of people. Our people need to understand what our government is capable of, and I believe that this is the perfect novel to read to help that understanding.
Finally, a slightly less depressing note about genre. This is post-apocalyptic fiction and I think that a lot of the themes I mentioned above fit into that genre. I hate to say it, but it’s the perfect genre for this kind of story to take place. The running, the scrambling for resources, and the desolation are all exactly what the world would be reduced to as it hunted its own people. The insanity of it all. And the fact that those who run are fueled onwards by dreams…perfect.
All I can say is read The Marrow Thieves. You’ll find value in it. Whether you are Indigenous, Métis, Inuit, or not, this is a terrifying future that we should all want to avoid. The continued persecution of any one peoples is wrong and will have devastating consequences.
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