Books·Canadian

The Lesser Blessed

Richard Van Camp's novel is a coming-of-age story set in Canada's North.

Richard Van Camp

Set in Fort Simmer, a fictional community in the Northwest Territories based on Richard Van Camp's hometown of Fort Smith, The Lesser Blessed follows a Dogrib teenager named Larry through his high school experience. In many ways, Larry is a typical 16-year-old boy who loves Iron Maiden and carries a flame for a local girl. But Larry is also haunted by his past: an abusive father, an accident that claimed the lives of several of his cousins, and the ill effects of sniffing gasoline. A new friendship with Johnny, a Métis newcomer to town, may help put him on the path to his future.

In 2001, The Lesser Blessed won the German Youth Literature Prize. A film adaptation, released in 2013, garnered a nomination for best adapted screenplay at the Canadian Screen Awards.

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From the book

I remember. It is the summer of my crucifixion. I try so hard to be pure; I take two baths a day. At least underwater, I can hear my heart beat. The skin of my back dries. Cracks. I make the noise of splitting wood when I walk and my scent is of something crumbling.

I scratch with a knife the word NO a hundred million times on the back of all the mirrors in our house, so my mother sees that I say NO to her, so my mother sees that I say NO to my father, so my mother sees that I say NO to the world, and to the acts unforgivable.

I walk out to the road that leads to Edzo and Yellowknife. I stand daringly close. I wave to the truckers who blare their horns. I am still a child and comfortable waving to strangers.

I see a therapist who asks me to draw how I see myself. I hand in a picture of a forest.

He looks closely, says there is no one. I say, "Look, there. I am already buried."

There is NO a hundred million times on every rock, tree and leaf...


From The Lesser Blessed by Richard Van Camp ©1996. Published by Douglas & McIntyre.

Author interviews

Author Richard Van Camp speaks to CBC North host Kate Kyle about the screening of the film based on his book 'The Lesser Blessed'. 3:48

More about this book

Benjamin Bratt talks about why he took role in Canadian indie film. 4:31