Canada Reads 2013 Book Review: Indian Horse

Author: Richard Wagamese

Publisher: Douglas & McIntyre

Date Published: Febrauary 1st, 2012

Format: Trade Paperback

Source: Borrowed from Ardo


With compassion and insight, author Richard Wagamese traces through his fictional characters the decline of a culture and a cultural way. For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement.

Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man. Drawing on his great-grandfather’s mystical gift of vision, Saul Indian Horse comes to recognize the influence of everyday magic on his own life. In this wise and moving novel, Richard Wagamese shares that gift of magic with readers as well.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 2.5


indian horse

Defended by:
Carol Huynh, Olympic wrestling champion

Writing Score: 4 out of 5

Recommendation: Must Read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating: 4 out 5



Richard Wagamese is such as gifted storyteller; throughout the book I was able to experience so many emotions. There were times where I felt sadden and other times where I felt angry, and of course there were times where I would burst into tears because of how kind and unselfish some of the characters were. I loved how hockey was integrated throughout the book, and I was especially surprised at the big reveal near the end of the book regarding the role of hockey in Saul’s life when he was younger.

I truly adored the Kelly family. This is especially true for Vigril, as his relationship with Saul was very inspiring. Despite Saul becoming adopted, the two of them were liked brothers who have known each other since birth. I also admired how they were able to give Saul his space when he was trying to come to terms with his past as well as how they were there for him when he came back and needed them.

As mentioned before Wagamese is an amazing storyteller. The language and words that he uses in the book are so powerful, and at times almost magical. His and Saul’s love of the game of hockey is definitely obvious when one reads the ice scenes whether it’s an actual hockey game or just Saul teaching himself to skate while practicing his shots.


Without going into too much detail or spoiling anything, I would have to say that the ending can be seen as kind of sappy. I felt like it was overdone even though its purpose was to show how people can redeem themselves through other people and things they love. Another thing that was disappointing was the lack of focus on the other characters as this is Saul’s story this is a shame since we do not get to know the other characters very well. Finally what disappointed me the most was the revelation about the true nature of one of the priests near the end, as it was kind of sad to learn that in the end there really was no kind or unselfish priests or nuns at Saul’s residential school. However I felt that it did make sense because of the context and it was not too big of a surprise as in real life there have been many aboriginal kids in residential schools who have also experienced the same betrayal that Saul did.

So, have any of you guys read Indian Horse yet? What did you think? Do you think it was Canada Reads worthy?

The opinions expressed in this review are my own; I did not receive any compensation in exchange for this review.

– Linh

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