Reviewed by Leif Gregersen
Richard Van Camp is an iconic Canadian storyteller who is one of the few to write about the magic and medicine of the Canadian North. In the book Night Moves, for those who are fans of Richard’s work, many of these stories bring joy and satisfaction in that they are interwoven with some of Van Camp’s greatest previous works.
Perhaps Van Camp’s most notable book was “The Lesser Blessed.” If you loved that book and the movie that came of it, Night Moves will delight you. In it there is a brand new story named “Where Are You Tonight” in which we get another glimpse of Juliet Hope, Larry Sole and Darcy McManus. Van Camp seems to have a special window into the soul of teens, a divine understanding of the forces that made us who we were in those bittersweet formative times. Richard’s characters don’t just relate to my own upbringing, they seem to mirror people I knew in my past. Night Moves is also a book that gives us a special insight on not just what it is like to be a teenager, but a Native, teenager in a small Northern community.
In the story “The Strongest Blood” the stage is set for two young friends, Joey and Leo, to spend time grouse hunting as Leo’s father tries to make his son understand the importance of College. In this vivid and inspiring tale, scenes are created of the beauty and wonder of Canada’s vast and largely unspoiled North and what it feels like to be a part of that great expanse of living, breathing space. We learn in this story of tea dances, drum dances, hand games, singing groups and storytelling nights that are all part of the Indigenous culture. And always there are beautiful descriptions of the medicine that the Native people believe every creature has.
In the sensual romantic story “I Double Dogrib Dare You” we are given a look into how the new and old come together to enact the modern mating dance. Here we see a young man who had stood up to a nasty character, but braves the danger of being in his presence to court a woman who he feels holds his destiny in her hands. After an interaction, we learn this modern Romeo had completed the Dogrib ceremony of love medicine by reaching his arm into a pit of snakes for her. The story is simply electric, as is every tale in this collection.
One of the longer stories goes by the name, “Blood Rides The Wind”. It is a story of anger and revenge, of betrayal and abuse. One of the things I love most about Van Camp’s work is that one learns so much about Native people who may have lived just next door for all our lives, but never really revealed themselves on a personal level to us. As we glide effortlessly through his prose, Van Camp stirs the reader, enrages the reader, moves and entertains the reader. In “Blood Rides The Wind” we are introduced to a young man who we slowly learn had a cousin who was sexually assaulted and a completely lovable mentor reaches out to what he sees as a youth in need of proper guidance.
Night Moves by Richard Van Camp is an exploration, and an adventure in words and fictional characters that in my 43 years I have found almost no equal to. The skilled descriptions, the characters that must have been drawn from the real life experiences in Van Camp’s life in the Northwest Territories make for a book that will not soon be forgotten.
Night Moves is published by Enfield & Wizenty.