Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley – REVIEW
As a biracial, unenrolled tribal member and the product of a scandal, eighteen-year-old Daunis Fontaine has never quite fit in, both in her hometown and on the nearby Ojibwe reservation. Daunis dreams of studying medicine, but when her family is struck by tragedy, she puts her future on hold to care for her fragile mother.
The only bright spot is meeting Jamie, the charming new recruit on her brother Levi’s hockey team. Yet even as Daunis falls for Jamie, certain details don’t add up and she senses the dashing hockey star is hiding something. Everything comes to light when Daunis witnesses a shocking murder, thrusting her into the heart of a criminal investigation.
Reluctantly, Daunis agrees to go undercover, but secretly pursues her own investigation, tracking down the criminals with her knowledge of chemistry and traditional medicine. But the deceptions—and deaths—keep piling up and soon the threat strikes too close to home.
Now, Daunis must learn what it means to be a strong Anishinaabe kwe (Ojibwe woman) and how far she’ll go to protect her community, even if it tears apart the only world she’s ever known.
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Rock the Boat.
Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
“It wasn’t just generational trauma that got stored in our blood and passed along, but our resilience and language, too.”
It’s hard to describe what a powerful and profoundly moving novel Firekeeper’s Daughter is. It dissects indigenous American culture in nuanced detail and produces an intimate and harrowing portrait of the Ojibwe tribe. Exploring themes of toxic masculinity, gendered violence, rape, race and drugs, the author is unflinching. I admit I’m ignorant about indigenous American culture but this book educated me so much and has encouraged me to seek out similar stories and further my limited knowledge.
“Wisdom is not bestowed. In its raw state, it is the heartbreak of knowing things you wish you didn’t.”
Eighteen-year-old Daunis is an engaging main character who the reader soon identifies with. She’s intelligent, analytical, and capable, with an aptitude for STEM subjects. Her mixed heritage is a prominent focus and she’s often treated as too light-skinned by other indigenous Americans yet too dark-skinned by White people. It’s eye-opening to experience the snide remarks she receives from other people and the casual damage they can inflict. Powerful women like Daunis are a cornerstone of the novel and I especially loved the fierce Teddie and hilarious Granny June.
“Some boats are made for the river and some for the ocean. And there are some who can go anywhere because they always know the way home.”
As drugs begin to devastate her community, Daunis attempts to solve the mystery behind their inexplicably potent side-effects and fast-growing reach. The author explores how drugs can tear communities and families apart, and the corruption and secrets that can underlie everyday life. The ending is brutally realistic with a sense of imperfect justice. The engaging writing style ensures Firekeeper’s Daughter will capture the hearts of many readers and it’s sure to be one of the most important books of the year.