Jared is a fifteen year-old First Nations youth living with his mother, Maggie and her boyfriend in a small town in northern British Columbia.
To say Jared's family is dysfunctional would be an understatement. His mother has a homicidal temper and has been jailed for assault and mandated to take anger management programs. His home is a party house from which his mother and her boyfriend sell drugs and partake in other criminal activity.
Jared's a smart kid with a smarter mouth and struggles to maintain some normalcy in his life despite his role models. This becomes increasingly difficult since it's not only his family but all his peers who indulge in similar destructive lifestyles.
Indeed, author Eden Robinson has included almost every type of self-destructive and anti-social behavior you can imagine including domestic violence, bullying, promiscuity, self-mutilation, S&M and, of course drugs, more drugs all topped off with binge drinking.
As Jared's life lurches from crisis to crisis he copes by staying stoned or inebriated or both. Soon he can't tell what is real and what isn't. When he reaches out to some elders for help, including his paternal grandmother, he discovers they have an entirely different agenda for him.
Yet despite the magical power of the cultural mythic creatures that align themselves with Jared in his time of need his salvation comes in a very conventional form, which unfortunately makes for an anti-climatic ending.
Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson is a page turner for sure. The author does a remarkable job of defining her characters through authentic dialogue and dramatic action. The story in some places is laugh out loud funny and in others almost too painful to read. Her portrayal of Jared's young life as a First Nations youth is brutal and honest though never didactic.
In this era of "Idle No More", mainstream media has come under criticism for it's coverage of First Nations people and their issues suggesting they are always depicted by the three "Ds" - drumming, drunk or dead.
As a journalist and an author I agree with the criticism and am attempting to understand more about the issues and the people so it can be reflected with honest and empathy in my writing.
Though an entertaining book, Son of a Trickster is an extremely negative representation of First Nations people. It's a good thing Robinson is a First Nations person herself, otherwise it's unlikely her book would have been short-listed for the Giller Prize, one of the most prestigious literary awards in Canada.