Medicine WalkBook - 2015
-- Globe and Mail
When Franklin Starlight is called to visit his father, he has mixed emotions. Raised by the old man he was entrusted to soon after his birth, Frank is haunted by the brief and troubling moments he has shared with his father, Eldon. When he finally travels by horseback to town, he finds Eldon on the edge of death, decimated from years of drinking.
The two undertake difficult journey into the mountainous backcountry, in search of a place for Eldon to die and be buried in the warrior way. As they travel, Eldon tells his son the story of his own life--from an impoverished childhood to combat in the Korean War and his shell-shocked return. Through the fog of pain, Eldon relates to his son these desolate moments, as well as his life's fleeting but nonetheless crucial moments of happiness and hope, the sacrifices made in the name of love. And in telling his story, Eldon offers his son a world the boy has never seen, a history he has never known.
From the critics
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...we're a Great Mystery. Everything. Said the things they done, those old-time Indians, was all about learnin' to live with that mystery. Not solving it, not comin' to grips with it, not even tryin' to guess it out. Just bein' with it. I guess I wish I'd learned the secret to doing that.
"All’s I’m tryin’ to say is that we never had the time for learnin’ about how to get by out here. None of us did. White man things was what we needed to learn if we was gonna eat regular. Indian stuff just kinda got left behind on accounta we were busy gettin’ by in that world.”
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The kid also known as Frank has always lived with the Old Man, and does not know much about where he comes from or his own story. His father (not the Old Man) calls on him to help him make a journey through the wilderness to a specific place where he would like to die. He is suffering from a failing liver due to alcoholism. Throughout the course of the journey Frank learns his history through the stories of his father, and also narrates some of his own childhood experiences. His father tells of his time as a child, the abuse of his mother, the death of his father (Frank's grandfather), the Vietnam war, meeting Frank's mother, and how she died. Frank tells of each time that he saw his father as a child and thier subsequent shattered relationship. He is able to forgive his father before he dies, and buries him before returning home.