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by Joylene Nowell Butler
Dancing Lemur Press, November 2016
278 pages
ISBN: 1939844231

Buy in the UK | Buy in Canada

Sally Warner, the eponymous Woman Who Cries, has a lot of secrets. The wife of a Canadian cabinet minister living in a remote part of British Columbia, she must keep her family's public and private worlds separate. Therefore, it's no surprise that when she meets Corporal Danny Killian, a Native detective who has also lived in two worlds, they understand each other. Perhaps, a bit too well, because Mrs. Warner is the prime suspect in Killian's latest case–her husband's murder.

The latest installment in Joylene Nowell Butler's Ippy-winning Killian series, MÂTOWAK is a suspenseful, realistically frightening page-turner. Butler is particularly adept at threading her theme of naive doubles throughout the entire novel, so that the reader must constantly try to figure out what the characters are hiding not only from each other but from themselves.

The structure serves this theme: Sally and Killian take turns as narrators, and both engage in compelling explorations of what it means to inhabit two worlds. They also both cope with legacies of trauma. Sally has lost her two sons in horrific circumstances, and Killian is a survivor of Canada's grim residential schools established for the education–or, rather, cultural lobotomy–of its First Nations' children.

Butler is a member of the Métis nation, which derives from sixteenth-century First Nations and French Canadian contact and that has since spread out across Canada, shaping its historic fur trade and national history. Drawing upon her Métis heritage, Butler gently informs the reader about Killian and other Native characters' history, culture, politics, art, and contemporary struggles–with bias, poverty, and the frightening rage of white Canadian men. While fascinating and enraging, this material never intrudes upon the plot. Instead, it deepens the tension. I can't wait to revisit her characters in their next suspenseful and consequential adventure.

§ Rebecca Nesvet is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay. She specializes in nineteenth-century literature. https://uwgb.academia.edu/RebeccaNesvet

Reviewed by Rebecca Nesvet, August 2016

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Contact: Yvonne Klein (ymk@reviewingtheevidence.com)

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