Gryphons Fall Read: Son of a Trickster

The 2019 Gryphons Read book-club pick was “Son of a Trickster”, by Eden Robinson. If you are not sure what the “Gryphons Read” program is, it is essentially a campus wide book-club where those registered receive a copy of the text, attend meetings, and can meet the author. I was fortunate enough to get to meet Ms. Robinson, and she was the loveliest woman!

“Son of a Trickster” is the first book in a trilogy (though I would have never guessed that ), and is set in a small town in British Columbia. The main character, Jared, is a high school student who lacks stability in his life, is distrusted by his maternal grandmother (as she declares him the son of a trickster- this is revealed in the first chapter), is excluded at school and is left to deal with personal issues entirely on his own. The story starts off very unhappily, and at times even some of the major plot points seemed unrealistic… but not impossible. There were a lot of shocking and unsettling scenes. This being said, the entire novel doesn’t entirely lack hope, especially towards the end.

Something unique about this story is the merging of some Indigenous spiritual stories and traditions, with Jared’s narrative. At first there are subtle hints to Indigenous traditions and a sort of magic, things like narrations by unintroduced narrators and talking animals. It quickly evolves into an extraordinary display of Indigenous beliefs becoming intertwined as part of Jared’s life… Even though he doesn’t know too much about them. The reader gets to be confused with Jared, but also learn with him. By the end, the supernatural elements really do work with the story. There’s magic on the page that wasn’t there before, not until the story unfolds, and with it an understanding of how this magic can be seen everywhere in the novel leading up to that point. Characters like Sarah introduce contemporary political commentary with her involvement in the “Idle No More” protests, and interesting views on having a mixed heritage  as well. I was most interested by her character.

The second half of the book was entirely different from the first half because of this. Jared’s bleak and difficult life is hard to read about. It’s something a lot people can sympathize with, but might have difficulty fully empathizing with because it is so far removed from mainstream experiences. Past the halfway point, the story becomes something else entirely (but I’ll let you discover that for yourself). 

The author event took place on October 2nd, complete with food inspired by the book’s cultural background, and the author herself. Eden Robinson discussed her book during this time. She outlined the novels progression, from it starting as a short story, turning into a novella, then a novel, and finally a trilogy (the second book “Trickster Drift” is out now!). One of the biggest points she made was that she doesn’t consider this novel to be “magical realism”. The novel’s magic is a very real merging of a lot of people’s understandings of their own spiritual beliefs and how they apply to their own life. Which is actually very important to the story.

“Son of a Trickster” is an excellent introduction to Indigenous literature. It is quickly paced, interesting, funny (and sad), all in ways that made me want to keep reading. The book wasn’t too long, and the diction didn’t require too much googling, making it a good choice for a commute, or just as something to read before bed. And, this book was written by a Canadian author, and takes place in Canada!