Indigenous populations are targeted by wanton forces in Cherie Dimaline’s startling dystopian novel Hunting by Stars.
In the desolate near future, people are unable to dream. It’s a fatal condition that only Indigenous people seem immune to. For this, they are targeted: kidnapped and relocated, they have their marrow stolen by those hoping for a cure.
Rose and French live with a makeshift family in the Canadian wilds, eking by and avoiding government forces. When French is stolen and taken to a retooled residential school, Rose sets out to save him. Both face impossible choices: French, of whether or not to betray his family in exchange for his safety; Rose, of whether she can maintain her love for someone who may have turned against his people.
In this second series entry, there are “new monster[s] in the woods.” Plans are made for unprecedentedly insidious means of harvesting marrow, and ordinary citizens plot to snap up anyone who escapes their clutches. But even as new levels of human depravity are revealed, Rose and her family work to maintain their principled, loving existence, knowing that it doesn’t “take depth to build cruelty, only a profound lack of hope.”
The parallels between the dystopian terrors that the cast faces, and those that Indigenous populations have historically faced, are pronounced: the residential schools of the novel are no more “schools” than North America’s first iterations of them were, and the vitriol and resentment with which citizens speak of Indigenous people is chilling and immediate. Still, there is hope in these pages, in which Rose and her family press on despite monumental challenges, and in which love persists against vicious attempts to snuff it out.
An Indigenous family stays vigilant against reshaped cruelties in Hunting by Stars, a breathtaking dystopian novel about prejudice and persistence.
Michelle Anne Schingler
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