Admittedly, I was not ready for this book. I began with several others on the go and exams looming around the corner. I felt like it was going in fits and starts, and I was ready to give up. The thing is, once exams were over, I went back to it and finished it in a day!
David A. Robertson’s first instalment of The Reckoner Trilogy takes us to the (fictional) Manitoba town of Wounded Sky where we’re drawn into the lives of a community still reeling a decade on from a devastating school tragedy that claimed the lives of many of the town’s young people. We’re immediately thrown into the schemes of Choch, the coyote trickster of First Nations’ lore, as he plots to coerce Cole Harper back to the town that drove him away for his role as hero and scapegoat in the fire ten years ago.
After the tragedy ten years ago, Cole, along with his grandmother and aunt, moved to Winnepeg. As we see the broken and conflicted life that they have pieced together since leaving Wounded Sky, the inevitable becomes clear: Cole must return and face the demons that await him back home.
What follows is the beginning of a mystery that, while already well under way, really starts to unfold as soon as Cole touches down at the rural community’s airstrip. Cole is forced to face not only the conflicting emotions of his old friends and neighbours, but he must also try to reconcile his current life with his painful past.
Along the way, Choch is weaving his way in and out of Cole’s life, pulling strings, playing games and adding a supernatural level of uncertainty to Cole’s attempt to straighten his life, and his community, out. Trust is scarce, and suspicion is rampant – what really happened all those years ago, and why are people dying now that Cole has returned?
Strangers does contain violence, and mature language/content, so it is best suited to more mature readers. Its themes of family and friendship, and community and belonging ring with sufficient universality that most readers should find themselves drawn into Robertson’s story. Once hooked, as I was, it seems unfair that by the end of the book, Cole’s story has really just gotten started.
Will Milner is an English & Outdoor Pursuits teacher at Fredericton High School, where he also coaches soccer and track & field. When not teaching, or coaching, he can be found with his wife Jen outside with their dogs and playing with their daughter Olivia.