Margin Notes

GUEST WRITER SUSAN MILLER RECOMMENDS THE BERRY PICKERS BY AMANDA PETERS

Jun
25

Author Amanda Peters is a mixed-race woman of Mi’kmaq and European ancestry who was born and raised in Nova Scotia. Her debut novel, The Berry Pickers, is an adult novel that delves into heavy topics so this interesting read is not for the faint of heart; however, for mature Grade 11 and 12 readers, it should be in your classroom. Peters shows her readers the ins and outs of trauma within the story of Ruthie, a four-year-old Indigenous little girl who disappears while her family is in Maine working the blueberry fields. Peters allows her readers into the minds and thoughts of the family mainly through the eyes and memories of Joe, the sibling closest to Ruthie in age. Peters uses the technique of flashbacks within this novel, and Joe shows readers in flashbacks the way he and his family deal with Ruthie’s vanishing. Joe struggles with many issues over his life— guilt, regret, grief, death, loss, anger, abuse, alcoholism to name a few —and readers will be captivated by the vivid descriptions and images that Peters carefully crafts. Readers can easily visualize what Peters writes and the words come to life on the page — this is a definite plus of the novel as a movie is taking place in the reader’s mind with every turn of the page.

The Berry Pickers is also a window into the way Indigenous individuals were treated in our country and by our neighbours to the south during most of the 20th century. At various times, it is a difficult read, but just because something is difficult to read, it doesn’t mean it isn’t important reading.

The Berry Pickers is also a story about love and Peters paints a story of resilience within the novel though the character of Norma. Norma is an only child in a home where the loving mother is sickly, controlling, and secretive in addition to not being in the best state of mind mentally; however, Norma does have an aunt who loves her like her own and who stands beside her throughout her entire life. Love is woven into the book in different ways and chapters alternate between Joe and Norma so the reader is shown many relationships and differing times throughout the two perspectives which only serves to enhance the story.

So, if you are looking to increase indigenous representation on your classroom bookshelves, and to challenge your stronger, mature readers, this story of trauma, struggle and resilience is a recommended addition.

Susan Miller truly loves her job as a teacher of English at Minto Memorial High School where she’s been since 1993.  She strongly believes that reading is the key to student success and prides herself on helping her students find great books to read.

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