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Bookends: A Vampire Returns to his Native Land December 29, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: A Vampire Returns to his Native Land

By Dan DavidsonNight wanderer

May 15, 2013

– 870 words –


The Night Wanderer: A Native Gothic Novel

By Drew Hayden Taylor

Annick Press

218 pages



The novel begins with a parable about how the part of your nature which you cater to will determine who you are as you grow. It is extremely relevant to everything that follows.

We move to be with a stranger on a trans-Atlantic flight, heading home after an absence of many years. He has an aversion to sunlight and makes people around him feel uncomfortable.

“This kind of flight was called ‘the red eye’. He loved the irony.”

The stranger, who will eventually give us the name Pierre L’Errant, is headed for Otter Lake, which has been the setting for several of Taylor’s novels, and he is on something of a personal quest. Fortunately for everyone he meets, this quest involves fasting and purification.

In the reserve section of Otter Lake, young Tiffany Hunter is having a really bad week, just another part of a bad year altogether. Her mother deserted the family that year and she’s not getting on well with either her father or her Granny Ruth. Neither of them likes the white boy from the other side of town that she has started dating, and we’re left with the impression that it has more to do with him being older than not being Native.

At school, 16-year-old Tiffany is not doing well, and her social circle of girlfriends has collapsed since she started spending every minute she could with her boyfriend, Tony Banks.

Hanging out with Tony is taking her even farther from her Anishinabe roots, which her Granny keeps trying to encourage by telling her traditional stories and using the language.

Learning that her father, Keith, who is having trouble supporting the family, plans to move her bedroom into the basement so he can use her room as the bed part of a bed & breakfast deal, is just about the last straw for Tiffany. She might have gone off the deep end in her relationship with her father even sooner if it had no turned out that the mysterious M. L’Errant, their very first guest, preferred to sleep (during the day no less) in their pitch black basement.

Tiff got her room back but, after a disastrous party that Tony takes her to, loses her boyfriend when it turns out they really don’t run in the same social circles and that he was using her exemption from certain taxes to buy things he was giving to another girl from his side of town.

Tiffany runs away and spends a night in the woods, where she meets with L’Errant, who tells her all sorts of things about the way life used to be in this part of the land before the white man came.

L’Errant is, of course, a vampire, but he was first a member of the local tribe and, as a young boy, he shared some of the frustration with life that Tiffany is feeling. He ran away and asked the French fur traders to take him with them, which they did. He became a curiosity in the French court until he was stricken with an illness against which he had no natural immunity and saved from death by the bite of a lady vampire.

Since then he has roamed the world, but after centuries of undead living, he has decided to return to the land of his birth to face the rising sun and end an existence of which he has grown weary.

He wants to go clean, and so he is fasting. When he deals with a couple of local bullies, he merely scares them almost to death without doing any permanent physical damage. When he sees Tiffany in the forest, he protects her, though the one he has to protect her from the most is himself.

He has long since learned that he can only go just so long without feeding, As he weakens, his intellectual control over his body weakens too, and there comes a time when he will lose control and his body will feed. He is determined not to do so with the daughter of his hosts, or with anyone else. He wants to be ritually pure when he greets the sun on his last morning. It is a struggle for him.

Taylor has provided us with a gothic story that combines elements of the horror story and the young adult novel. From what I have read and heard of his work, I suspect he is incapable to writing anything that does not contain a bit of humour, and there’s more than enough here along with the drama.

We follow the story through several different viewpoints, Tiffany’s and L’Errant’s being only two of them. Most of them have happy endings. I felt the last paragraph was really appropriate.

“Then, after so long, Pierre L’Errant saw the sun peek boldly above the horizon. And it was glorious.”

Drew Hayden Taylor was recently in the territory as part of the Yukon Writers’ Festival I late April, during which he toured and gave readings in a number of communities.





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