Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson
Published 2017. Knopf Canada
Set in Kitimat, B.C, readers meet Jared Martin as a young boy. In the chaos of moving West with his parents, Jared also has to deal with the verbal abuse from his maternal grandmother who claims that Jared’s father isn’t really his father but that he is instead a Wee’git’s son – a trickster’s son. In contrast, Jared’s paternal grandmother showers him with affection and remains a source of support throughout much of the intervening years.
The story then jumps ahead to when Jared is sixteen and he and his mother live off the Rez, in a party-house (his Mom and her boyfriend are drugdealers).
His parents divorced years earlier and his mom wants nothing to do with his dad. Jared is frequently given beer and shots, and most of the book sees him getting blackout drunk and showing up on YouTube with smart-mouthed rants and questionable actions. He is known as the “Cookie Dude” because of his talents for baking pot cookies that every kid in his high school wants. But he doesn’t keep the money for himself – instead, Jared uses the funds to help his father and stepsister’s pay off their rent. The kid also goes over to his next-door neighbors to shovel her drive way and help her with chores – he does all this while trying to make it through high school, while dealing his mom’s temper and handful of her psycho, loser boyfriends.
At one point I was just like, “Jesus, this kid keeps having crap thrown at him and he still pushes on!”
He could easily embrace crime, begin dealing drugs like his mom and boyfriend want him to, start carrying a gun and becoming a heavy … but he deliberately pushes that out of his life. Don’t get me wrong, Jared has his flaws, but he’s at that age where he’s faced with a number of anxieties that all high school kids deal with -social acceptance, family expectations, drug and sexual experimentation.
Readers will learn about the history and traditions of the Haisla and Heiltsuk nation. Jared even learns a little bit about how his maternal grandmother’s experiences at residential school affected her. But there is the on-going mystery about Jared’s potential link to the Trickster figure, his people’s traditional bogeymen. The conclusion is ultimately about Jared becoming more of who he already is rather than trying to shape-shift his identity to match something he is not.
The conditions that Robinson depicts in Son of a Trickster are vividly real. The plot, setting, and characters all come together to deliver a breathtaking and intriguing book. This is a novel for both young adults and adults – sure there’s sex and swearing and drugs and drinking in it, but although this is fiction, its also reality.
Like many such YA novels, the plot hits the readers hard and fast with so much that can go wrong in an adolescent’s life—and then it reminds us that there is always still hope.