Reviewed by Menaka Raman-Wilms
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice is both a mesmerizing and thought-provoking book. It follows the story of a Northern Anishinaabe community just as winter is setting in, and focuses specifically on a member of the community, Evan, and his young family. Without any warning, the community is cut off from communication with the outside world, and they must learn to adapt to their new reality. Phones and the Internet stop working, their power is cut off, and hot water and food must be rationed. No trucks arrive from the south with food or diesel deliveries. As an important member of the community, Evan has a significant role in making sure everyone learns to adapt and depend on themselves. The community is then met with people fleeing chaos in the cities to the south, and the survival techniques they’ve developed become threatened.
The story is both powerful and gripping. From the very beginning, Rice cultivates an atmosphere of uneasiness, where the danger, though not always present, is constantly lurking in the background. The descriptions of the snowed-in community cut off from the rest of the world are evocative and create a kind of slow panic that builds in the reader.
The book becomes a commentary on the resilience of this Anishinaabe community and Indigenous communities in general. Even without outside power or supplies, even isolated in the middle of winter, the community members are able to sustain themselves and keep each other alive.
The book also raises issues of addiction, residential schools, and loss of culture. Though these segments of the book can sometimes stand out as not being seamlessly woven into the narrative, they are addressed with thought and care and present these issues in a way that allows the reader to fully engage with them. Since the book discusses them within the context of the broader story, it helps to draw connections between history and the present day realities that are still affected by such history.
Overall, Moon of the Crusted Snow is a compelling and consuming read. It reflects on the history of colonization in Canada by weaving a modern apocalyptic tale and leaves the reader with a great deal to reflect on.
Moon of the Crusted Snow is published by ECW Press.