Three-day Road

Three-day Road

A Novel

Book - 2005
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Penguin Putnam
Set in Canada and the battlefields of France and Belgium, Three-Day Road is a mesmerizing novel told through the eyes of Niska?a Canadian Oji-Cree woman living off the land who is the last of a line of healers and diviners?and her nephew Xavier.

At the urging of his friend Elijah, a Cree boy raised in reserve schools, Xavier joins the war effort. Shipped off to Europe when they are nineteen, the boys are marginalized from the Canadian soldiers not only by their native appearance but also by the fine marksmanship that years of hunting in the bush has taught them. Both become snipers renowned for their uncanny accuracy. But while Xavier struggles to understand the purpose of the war and to come to terms with his conscience for the many lives he has ended, Elijah becomes obsessed with killing, taking great risks to become the most accomplished sniper in the army. Eventually the harrowing and bloody truth of war takes its toll on the two friends in different, profound ways. Intertwined with this account is the story of Niska, who herself has borne witness to a lifetime of death?the death of her people.

In part inspired by the legend of Francis Pegahmagabow, the great Indian sniper of World War I, Three-Day Road is an impeccably researched and beautifully written story that offers a searing reminder about the cost of war.

Baker & Taylor
The nephew of a Canadian Oji-Cree who is the last of a line of healers and diviners, Cree reserve student Xavier enlists in the military during World War I, a conflict throughout which he and his friend, Elijah, are marginalized for their appearances, their culturally enhanced marksmanship, and their disparate views of the war.

Blackwell North Amer
It is 1919, and Niska, an Oji Cree medicine woman who is the last of her band to live alone in the wild, has received word that one of the two teenage boys she saw off to war has returned. She leaves her home in the bush of northern Ontario to retrieve him, only to discover that the one she expected is actually the other.
Xavier Bird, her sole relation, gravely wounded and addicted to the army's morphine, hovers somewhere between the living world and that of the dead. As Niska paddles him the three days home, she realizes that all she can offer in her attempt to keep him alive is her words, the stories of her life.
In turn, he relates the horrifying years of war in Europe: how he and his best friend, Elijah Whiskeyjack, prowled the battlefields of France and Belgium as snipers of enormous skill. As their reputations grew, the two young men, with their hand-sewn moccasins and extraordinary marksmanship, became both the pride and fear of their regiment as they stalked the ripe killing fields of Ypres and the Somme. But what happened to Elijah? As Niska paddles deeper into the wilderness, both she and Xavier confront together the devastation that such great conflict leaves in its wake.

Publisher: New York : Viking, 2005
Edition: 1st American ed
ISBN: 9780670034314
Branch Call Number: FICTION BOYDEN
Characteristics: 354 p. ; 24 cm


From the critics

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Jan 18, 2019

You won't be able to pull away. Gut wrenching and beautifully written.

niigaanibinesi Aug 09, 2018

It would have been a great story if it was written by an Indigenous person and not a white person.

Jul 24, 2018

The book three-day road by Joseph Boyden was a beautiful story about the lives of three Aboriginal people during the first world war. I thought that it was very informative and well written because it really gave you an opportunity to see what it was like to be an aboriginal during that time as there were many challenges that the characters faced, such as racism and the demise of their cultural identity. I would recommend this book to anyone aged 14 and up because there was some suggestive content in the book. I would give this book 5 out of 5 stars.
- @MissB148 of the Teen Review Board of the Hamilton Public Library

Aug 05, 2017

recommended to me by a friend - i was not disappointed. reviews for this all over the internet so you don't need my synopsis - normally i am not a big fan of fiction but this one felt real. ww1 was long time ago but written in such a way that all feels very current. has some interesting 'residential schools' content that was illuminating (brought home the issue to me).

Jul 09, 2017

Awful but vivid & gripping. Two Cree Indians part of the Canadian military force in the first world war.

Jul 08, 2017

Absolutely brilliant! Tension throughout, very vivid imagery, brought an horrific experience to life, believable characters-fantastic read about trench warfare.

Jul 05, 2017

Disappointing. Too long. Paper thin characters. Stilted prose.

Jun 10, 2016

Three Day Road a memorable story that will haunt, inspire and entertain.

Niska is a traditional medicine woman, a mix of Cree and Ojibway. She's been taught divining and traditional medicine by her mother and father, has seizures and sees visions. She's also the destroyer of windigo, an evil presence that sometimes takes possession of humans, a role she has inherited through the generations.

Niska is a "bush Indian", living alone in the wilderness of northern Ontario. She is coming by canoe to a small town to meet Xavier, her nephew and last remaining relative. She raised him in the traditional ways until WW I broke out and he and his friend Elijah enlisted in the Canadian Army and were sent to France.

Xavier and Elijah have used their hunting skills to become an outstanding snipers. In France they hunted men instead of game. It changed them.

Xavier arrives home a deeply troubled young man, his leg has been amputated at the knee, he's addicted to the painkiller morphine.

Niska meets him and so begins their journey back into the wilderness, back to sanity, back to healing.

Author Joseph Boyden uses these two main characters to tell the story. Xavier floats on a morphine high and remembers the trenches, the bombardments, the death of comrades, the calculated killing of the enemy one by one as a sniper.

In an effort to draw him out of his personal hell Niska talks to him of her early life, of her parents, of how she came to raise him, of the windigo.

Three Day Road is a moving story of love and sacrifice, of friendship and loyalty, of the horror of war and the pointlessness of it.

Immaculately researched, powerfully written, this is a story that will haunt, inspire, entertain and stay with you.

Dec 08, 2015

Read all three in the series. Time well spent.

Jan 22, 2015

This book has the perspective of World War I through the eyes of a First Nations soldier. This novel goes from the devastation of World War I, to the action of a battle. Joseph Boyden is a talented writer able to blend history while in the trenches and history in aboriginal life.

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Add Notices
Jan 18, 2017

Sexual Content: There are a couple of chapters that contain brief, yet explicit sexual dialogue and behavior. Sexual innuendos are also used.

Jan 18, 2017

Violence: Very graphic depictions of war violence; limbs blown off, intense gore, realistic injuries, etc.

Jan 18, 2017

Coarse Language: Very offensive language is sprinkled throughout the novel.

nadian Jan 12, 2010

Coarse Language: This title contains Coarse Language.

nadian Jan 12, 2010

Violence: Graphic descriptions of war violence and related injuries.

nadian Jan 12, 2010

Sexual Content: This title contains Sexual Content.

Mar 29, 2008

Violence: This title contains Violence.


Add Age Suitability
Jan 18, 2017

LukeTabidze thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over

Feb 13, 2014

ConanTheLibrarian thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over

nadian Jan 12, 2010

nadian thinks this title is suitable for 16 years and over


Add a Summary

Two Cree friends, Xavier and Elijah, leave northern Canada to end up in the horrific trenches of World War I. After the war, Xavier's elderly aunt Niska takes her wounded nephew back home to the bush in a canoe. Their trip is the three-day road of the title, which also refers to the journey taken after death.

EPLPicks_Teen Mar 24, 2010

Two Cree friends, Xavier and Elijah, leave northern Canada to end up in the horrific trenches of World War I. After the war, Xavier's elderly aunt Niska takes her wounded nephew back home to the bush in a canoe. Their trip is the three-day road of the title, which also refers to the journey taken after death.

LMOH Aug 26, 2009

This is the story of a damaged WW1 vet from Northern Ontario, and his aunt. The book alternates in the telling of their individual stories. The aunt hopes to heal her nephew by talking, and possibly Xavier, the nephew, will help his aunt with the telling of his.


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