Five Little Indians
Taken from their families when they are very small and sent to a remote, church-run residential school, Kenny, Lucy, Clara, Howie and Maisie are barely out of childhood when they are finally released after years of detention.
Alone and without any skills, support or families, the teens find their way to the seedy and foreign world of Downtown Eastside Vancouver, where they cling together, striving to find a place of safety and belonging in a world that doesn't want them. The paths of the five friends cross and crisscross over the decades as they struggle to overcome, or at least forget, the trauma they endured during their years at the Mission.
Fuelled by rage and furious with God, Clara finds her way into the dangerous, highly charged world of the American Indian Movement. Maisie internalizes her pain and continually places herself in dangerous situations. Famous for his daring escapes from the school, Kenny can't stop running and moves restlessly from job to job — through fishing grounds, orchards and logging camps — trying to outrun his memories and his addiction. Lucy finds peace in motherhood and nurtures a secret compulsive disorder as she waits for Kenny to return to the life they once hoped to share together. After almost beating one of his tormentors to death, Howie serves time in prison, then tries once again to re-enter society and begin life anew.
With compassion and insight, Five Little Indians chronicles the desperate quest of these residential school survivors to come to terms with their past and, ultimately, find a way forward. (From HarperCollins Canada)
Five Little Indians won the 2020 Governor General's Literary Award for fiction and the 2021 Amazon Canada First Novel Award.
Michelle Good is a Cree writer and lawyer, as well as a member of Red Pheasant Cree Nation in Saskatchewan. Five Little Indians is her first book. CBC Books named her a writer to watch in 2020.
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From the book
Kenny took one backward glance, the tiller firm in his hand. Today, the clouds swirled at sea level, the shifting mists like a painter's brush, all but obliterating the island. The Mission School might not have been there at all, a bad dream, it was lost so completely in the deep coastal fog. The first time he'd seen the Mission, he was six years old, crammed into a boat with a dozen or so little kids, the steeple piercing the clouds as though it floated above them all, unhinged from the earth. Back then, he'd sat there, numb, as the boat docked, overcome with a feeling he didn't understand. Now, he was too familiar with that feeling. Being totally helpless was his daily fare at the Mission. Being used to the feeling made it no easier.
From Five Little Indians by Michelle Good ©2020. Published by HarperCollins Canada.
"My mother is a residential school survivor, as is my grandmother and cousins. I started writing this story in the 1990s. I think the seed really took shape really came to me when I was practicing law and I was representing survivors of residential schools. I was realizing just how much Canadians or Canada at large doesn't understand the impact of how these individuals suffered because of their attendance at these schools.
It occurred to me that this needed to be told as a story — as something that people could engage in — with more ease than a factual diatribe.- Michelle Good
"The thing that I was observing was that we could communicate the facts of the number of children that were forced to attend school and the manner in which they were forced to attend school.
"It occurred to me that this needed to be told as a story — as something that people could engage in — with more ease than a factual diatribe."