Kanata by Don Gillmor (2009)

“And 1770 was the year that my great-great-grandfather was born, Michael tells the class. David Thompson, the greatest land geographer who ever lived, and in the tradition of greatness, a man who died in poverty and obscurity. He was a genius, both intuitive and scientific, largely self-taught, the Mozart of the plains. Driver by some inner force that is difficult to define, he mapped western Canada. It was a solitary passion. What was his contribution? He helped create your world, the one you are now living in, with its Levi’s, Ford pickups, longing, hormones, fear, and the exquisite boredom of this particular moment.”

Michael Mountain Horse is the illegitimate half-Indian great-great-grandson of David Thompson, a man who mapped western Canada. He teaches history at a high school when one of his students is in a car accident and goes into a coma. Michael visits him at the hospital and tells him what he is missing out on in class. This turns out to become the family history of Michael, going from David Thompson in Wales, all over Canada and Michael’s own experiences in World War I and the Spanish civil war.

This is a great book spanning over many centuries and the history of Canada. I really enjoyed Michael’s own story, but felt that the story of David Thompson lacked some personality and was mainly describing his adventure. I really enjoyed the 1900s, and especially the narrative of Mackenzie King, the Prime Minister of Canada in this period who consulted mediums and admired the German nation-building prior to World War II.

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