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The Lesser Blessed: A Novel

por Richard Van Camp

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1576134,155 (3.84)12
A fresh, funny look at growing up Native in the North, by award-winning author Richard Van Camp. Larry is a Dogrib Indian growing up in the small northern town of Fort Simmer. His tongue, his hallucinations and his fantasies are hotter than the sun. At sixteen, he loves Iron Maiden, the North and Juliet Hope, the high school "tramp." When Johnny Beck, a Metis from Hay River, moves to town, Larry is ready for almost anything. In this powerful and often very funny first novel, Richard Van Camp gives us one of the most original teenage characters in fiction. Skinny as spaghetti, nervy and self-deprecating, Larry is an appealing mixture of bravado and vulnerability. His past holds many terrors: an abusive father, blackouts from sniffing gasoline, an accident that killed several of his cousins. But through his friendship with Johnny, he's ready now to face his memories--and his future. Marking the debut of an exciting new writer, The Lesser Blessed is an eye-opening depiction of what it is to be a young Native man in the age of AIDS, disillusionment with Catholicism and a growing world consciousness. A coming-of-age story that any fan of The Catcher in the Rye will enjoy.… (más)
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Somehow, to my great shame, I had never read this book. Richard Van Camp wrote it in 1996 and at that time I was back in school and I have discovered a whole raft of books published in the early 1990s that never made it into my hands. When it appeared on the CBC list of 100 Novels that Make you Proud to be Canadian I vowed I would read it. Still it took me several years because I kept hoping I would find a used copy somewhere but that never happened. I'll bet most people who acquired a copy have held onto it. This book is from my library and is actually a 20th Anniversary special edition which contains two short stories that feature the people in the book so in a way it benefited me to take so long to read it.

Larry Sole is a teenage boy living in a town in Canada's North-west Territory with his mother and they are of the Dogrib Nation. Larry is in high school and his mother is also going to school hoping to become a teacher. So Larry is pretty much looking after himself. He's a normal teenage boy in that he thinks about sex virtually all the time. He is completely smitten with a girl in his class, Juliet Hope, but he figures he doesn't have a chance with her. And then a new boy comes to town. Johnny Beck is a Metis and he's gorgeous. Johnny also has an eye on Juliet and pretty soon they are going out (that's a euphemism for what they are actually doing). But Johnny and Larry become friends and they spend a lot of time together mostly smoking dope or doing other drugs. Gradually we learn that Larry has a traumatic event in his past that involved his father. The reader has to piece together the hints dropped here and there by Van Camp to figure out what happened and I won't spoil that here. I also don't want to spoil the ending but I feel that I have to say that Larry and Johnny are no longer friends at the end of the book because Johnny did something that Larry finds reprehensible.

This was Van Camp first attempt at a novel and he wrote it when he was in college so there are some first novel issues. In the foreword to the 20th Anniversary edition Van Camp says:
"Larry's story is so dark, so brutal, so raw, so real but ultimately a story of hope and resilience and how love can save lives. Would I change a word after all this time? No. It's done. It's out. It's free."
That shows an author who has matured probably but also recognizes the value of holding on to earlier writings. Well done Richard. ( )
  gypsysmom | Sep 26, 2020 |
I re-read this book after 12 years or so, and it holds up remarkably well. I worried that the young protagonist might not age with me as a reader (most teenage characters don't appeal to me now the way they did 25 years ago...), but I found the book even more fascinating and more engaging than before. I read it in one sitting, and the energy as well as the carefully crafted structure and prose all stood out. Fantastic read. ( )
  james.d.gifford | Apr 4, 2020 |
I read this book because I was looking for a book that takes place in the Northwest Territories. This book was not what I had expected. It is definitely not a normal read for me and I had a hard time reading it based on the dark subject matter and sad state of the youth in the story. It gives great insight into the problems faced by native kids. This coming of age story about a native teen growing up in the fictional town of Fort Simmer, NWT deals with drugs, alcoholism, abuse, promiscuity and tragedy. It is definitely not for kids. ( )
  Carlathelibrarian | Feb 5, 2019 |
Beautiful and bleak. Having lived in norther Saskatchewan this work really resonated with me. ( )
  SadieRuin | Jan 25, 2018 |
It's a quick read, and cut up into like sections that all blend really well with each other. I enjoyed piecing together what had happened to Larry. At first I thought he was a good kid with bad friends - but slowly through the story he does things that really make his character questionable, like lighting his friends hood on fire to get at his girl. All the characters in this books seem to start out on one side of morality but slip to the other as you read on. Larry's ability to tell stories, influenced by his Dogrib nationality, is breath takingly beautiful and he says some lovely things. I really cared about Larry by the end of the book and I felt like he was teetering on the edge between two lives. I wish I knew what happened next ( )
1 vota meghancochrane | Nov 4, 2010 |
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A fresh, funny look at growing up Native in the North, by award-winning author Richard Van Camp. Larry is a Dogrib Indian growing up in the small northern town of Fort Simmer. His tongue, his hallucinations and his fantasies are hotter than the sun. At sixteen, he loves Iron Maiden, the North and Juliet Hope, the high school "tramp." When Johnny Beck, a Metis from Hay River, moves to town, Larry is ready for almost anything. In this powerful and often very funny first novel, Richard Van Camp gives us one of the most original teenage characters in fiction. Skinny as spaghetti, nervy and self-deprecating, Larry is an appealing mixture of bravado and vulnerability. His past holds many terrors: an abusive father, blackouts from sniffing gasoline, an accident that killed several of his cousins. But through his friendship with Johnny, he's ready now to face his memories--and his future. Marking the debut of an exciting new writer, The Lesser Blessed is an eye-opening depiction of what it is to be a young Native man in the age of AIDS, disillusionment with Catholicism and a growing world consciousness. A coming-of-age story that any fan of The Catcher in the Rye will enjoy.

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