Be omnivorous, don't just read one kind of book, read everything. - Richard Wagamese

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Review: Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden

Publisher: Penguin Canada
Pages: 408
Released: 2008
Source: Personal Copy
Rating: 5/5

I wanted to read one of Joseph Boyden’s novels for so long, and I’m not sure why I waited so long. Three Day Road will appeal to a wide range of readers.  Boyden’s debut novel introduces Xavier and Elijah, both First Nations. When Elijah hears about the upcoming war, he decides to get in on the action and convinced Xavier to come with him. Both volunteer their services, expecting the war to be short and their lives to return to normal, relatively soon. What really happens is that their world is turned upside down by the horrific trenches and the fight for survival. Elijah and Xavier both catch the eye of high ranking officials, and they become snipers, teamed together. Elijah decides to makes a game of it.

I’ve read many books about the First World War and this book was really different. Boyden’s writing is so beautiful and this story is so haunting. Life in the trenches was deplorable, and Boyden doesn’t hold back. He puts it all on the table. The friendship between Xavier and Elijah is so special. Xavier is more quiet and reserved but his leadership skills are so strong. Elijah spent more time in residential schools and he’s able to better communicate. He wants to be the one who’s known, he wants to be remembered. Xavier wants to be known too, but he’s more reserved. He barely speaks English and he’s more limited. It’s really interesting to see how they evolve throughout the story.

Three Day Road begins with Xavier’s aunt being reunited with him. He’s lost his leg, he’s addicted to morphine, and clearly broken. Niska has to get him through the three day journey back to his home in Northern Canada.  She doesn’t know what to do, so she begins to tell him stories. Xavier begins to reflect on his time during the war. Xavier and Elijah reacted to the war very differently, and their Native roots really showed in their thinking. Xavier’s traditional beliefs and his hunting skills really shine through. Elijah is the more dangerous and risky character. He was brought up in residential school until he escaped to live with Xavier and Niska. Xavier was always the one to show him the ways of the land. Now in war, Elijah tries to be the leader.

Three Day Road was such an engrossing and captivating read. It was hard to read about the trenches and the appalling living conditions but it was so real. I was so impressed with Boyden’s writing. His World War story was different from anything I’ve ever read. I will be reading all his other books as well. Hopefully, sooner rather than later. I just loved this one. 


  1. Great review Jennifer. I really think this is a book that I would enjoy. Adding it to my TBR!

  2. This does sound a unique aspect to World War II.