Books·Canadian

Crow Winter

In Karen McBride's debut novel, Hazel must unravel a web of deceit that, if left untouched, could destroy her family and her home on both sides of the Medicine Wheel.

Karen McBride

Nanabush. A name that has a certain weight on the tongue—a taste. Like lit sage in a windowless room or aluminum foil on a metal filling.

Trickster. Storyteller. Shape-shifter. An ancient troublemaker with the power to do great things, only he doesn't want to put in the work.

Since coming home to Spirit Bear Point First Nation, Hazel Ellis has been dreaming of an old crow. He tells her he's here to help her, save her. From what, exactly? Sure, her dad's been dead for almost two years and she hasn't quite reconciled that grief, but is that worth the time of an Algonquin demigod?

Soon Hazel learns that there's more at play than just her own sadness and doubt. The quarry that's been lying unsullied for over a century on her father's property is stirring the old magic that crosses the boundaries between this world and the next. With the aid of Nanabush, Hazel must unravel a web of deceit that, if left untouched, could destroy her family and her home on both sides of the Medicine Wheel. (From HarperAvenue)

Karen McBride is an Algonquin Anishinaabe writer from the Timiskaming First Nation in the territory that is now Quebec. Crow Winter is her first novel.

Why Karen McBride wrote Crow Winter

"Crow Winter is set on a reservation. I wanted to show the reserve as a real place, not just some fictional scary land. It's a real place with living and breathing people that aren't different than any other sort of small town you could come across.

We as Indigenous people have all kinds of stories that are not just centred around specific kind of traumas due to colonialism.- Karen McBride

"We as Indigenous people have all kinds of stories that are not just centred around specific kind of traumas due to colonialism. It was important to me to bring people there to show them that we experience all kinds of trauma and grief, but also uplifting things as well."

Read more in her interview with The Next Chapter.

From the book

I always thought it would be Raven.

The one who finally decided it was time to teach me. Raven seemed like the right fit. In all the big stories, he's the leading man. A beautiful bird with glossy black feathers. He's strong and graceful. Got a sharp wit and dclever tongue. I heard that he found the First People on the beaches of the West Coast. That he stole the sun one day just for the fun of it. Tough, self-assured, a good sense of humour. All the things a real Spirit Guide should be. 

As I drive, I press the lever down to wash the windshield and watch as the pale blue liquid shoots onto the glass. I hold it down longer than I should, watching as the wipers move back and forth. Most of the bugs come off in the first pass, but a particularly juicy one stays put. No matter. I know this road well. The early-August corn is high in the fields on either side of me. I role the windows down to let the fresh country air into the car. A flurry of birds rushes into the sky from one of the fields as I pass. I track their silhouettes for as long as I can, then return to scanning the highway stretched out in front of me.


From Crow Winter by Karen McBride ©2019. Published by HarperAvenue.

Interviews with Karen McBride

Shelagh Rogers talks to Karen McBride about her novel, Crow Winter 9:53
Crow Winter tells the story of Hazel Ellis, reconciling her grief after the death of her father. She returns home to Spirit Bear Point First Nation, and starts to have visions of an old crow, who says he's there to save her.  11:07

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