“Think of magic as a tree. The root of supernatural ability is simply the realization that all time exists simultaneously. Humans experience time as a progression of sequential events in much the same way we see the horizon as flat: our reality is shaped by our limitations.”
–excerpt from Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
Rumbling with dark humour, real life and bewitching characters, Eden Robinson’s latest novel, Son of a Trickster, is a confident coming-of-age story with a beautifully rhythmic cadence. Set in Kitimat, British Columbia, which is the town adjacent to the Haisla Nation territory where she grew up, Robinson explores the physical and metaphysical, and inner and outer realms of Jared, “the burnout kid in highschool who sells weed cookies.”
Jared lives a recognizably hard life. At 16 he’s financially and emotionally supporting family members. He drinks and swears with the learned nature of someone who has grown into those habits and he’s not always sure where he’ll wake up. The turbulence is palpable.
“The world is hard. You have to be harder,” Jared’s forceful mother repeats to him throughout the novel. So Jared shoulders his responsibilities and his reckless activities with the same unruffled, at times pragmatic, and generally well-seasoned attitude. He errs on the side of unemotional (except for his dead dog, Baby Killer), and people react by calling him “a dick” to his face.
Then, without dropping a beat, Robinson introduces Wee’git, the trickster — who takes different shapes and forms in many indigenous stories, in this one: a transforming raven.
Initially, Jared refuses to acknowledge Wee’git’s existence. He evades explaining or exploring why ravens are talking to him, why his dreams seem to fade into real life, why he can hear Baby Killer barking in the forest, or why he sees an old woman’s face shift shape. Jared wants to remain ignorant, so the reader also remains in the dark. But at some point his denial is overwhelmed and, as his perspective changes, we’re right alongside him to watch it happen.
“Everyone knows a kid like Jared…” says the synopsis of the book, but part of the novel’s magic is that it seems to have a bit of that trickster personality in itself. Maybe we do know a kid like Jared, but we don’t really know Jared. Under his rough exterior, Jared is an exceptional human, and if even he doesn’t know it yet.
The world is hard and Jared has many lessons to learn, however, they won’t all come to fruition in this book.
Published by Penguin Random House Canada in February this year, Son of a Trickster is the first novel in her trickster trilogy.
Witty and dark, Robinson has written an exceptionally lively novel. It’s unconventional for a “coming-of-age story” and carries some disturbingly honest observations about growing up in grim conditions. Robinson arrests these by keeping a delightfully anecdotal and irreverent tone. Keep an eye out for this wonderfully magnetic book and its future counterparts; like trickster, they’re sure to break all the rules.
Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson is available through the Yukon Public Library system. To borrow a copy, go to the Whitehorse Public Library, call them, or make a request online through www.YPL.gov.yk.ca.