Rose’s Run by Dawn Dumont is another book I had the pleasure of reviewing while on the jury for the Saskatchewan Book Awards. It’s published by Thistledown Press, whose books don’t normally come across my desk, so I was delighted to crack this one open.
Dawn Dumont is a successful broadcaster, humorist and writer. I was impressed to read her biography, which lists an assortment of activities that she’s involved in. Rose’s Run starts off with lots of humor, and of course, a foot race. This is where the book ends as well, although the stuff in between is nothing short of extraordinary.
The book takes place on an aboriginal reserve in Saskatchewan. The environment described in the book is surprisingly cliche for what a non-native person would imagine a ‘rez’ to be like. This is not a criticism of Dumont’s writing however, it’s simply an observation I’ve made. I’ve never been on a reserve myself, but the things you hear about them in the news (poverty, alcoholism, corruption, the struggle between the new ways and the old) all play a role in this book. I can only guess that Dumont is being realistic when drawing upon these issues, because I doubt an Aboriginal writer would want to perpetuate something that isn’t true about this environment. There is much to admire about the story, and it’s writing. The main character Rose Okanese is fun, and very relatable. She’s a struggling (mostly single) mother who’s attempting to lose weight by training for a marathon, while starting a new job and keeping her family and finances in check. There’s also a minor love story that weaves in and out of the storyline, although this isn’t the main driver of the plot by any means.
Every once in a while, a spiritual/supernatural element would rear its head, which eventually takes over the last 100 or so pages of the book. This is where I became somewhat lost. Not because it wasn’t well written, or didn’t make sense, but because I didn’t expect it at all, and it didn’t seem to fit with the tone Dumont had so brilliantly set-up in the beginning of the novel. It was almost like a Terry Fallis novel that ended up being a Stephen King book: a mix of genres of that don’t belong together.
It’s a good book regardless of this shift, but I think it could have been stronger if it stuck with the original humorous slant it began with. This abrupt change should not discourage you from reading it however, just getting to know Rose is well worth the read in itself.