An Indigenous Canadian boy with a streak of white paint on his cheek against a dark blue background

Safiyya: In July, Hailey and I read Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves, a dark, dystopian novel about a Canada which we are chillingly close to seeing in real life.


Content Warning: this review discusses the Indian residential schools, sexual violence, child abuse, and institutional racism.


The Marrow Thieves is set in Canada, about a hundred years in the future. Earth has been ravaged by diseases, earthquakes, rising sea levels, and wars for scarce resources. People have been experiencing a strange illness which affects their ability to dream, and eventually drives them to madness. Yet for some reason, this disease does not seem to affect people of Indigenous descent. As such, government officials in white vans have been taking Indigenous people away to “schools” and subjecting them to unspecified horrors, alleging it is for the good of humankind.


Frenchie, aka Francis, a sixteen-year-old boy of Métis descent, is on the run from government Recruiters in this rundown version of Ontario. Alone after his brother Mitch sacrificed himself, Frenchie joins a ragtag group of survivors making their way north, including:

  • Miig, an older man and one of the group elders
  • Minerva, another senior member, a gentle and sweet-natured elderly lady
  • Chi-Boy, a seventeen-year-old boy
  • Tree and Zheegwon, twelve-year-old twin boys 
  • Slopper, a nine-year-old boy
  • Wab, an eighteen-year-old girl
  • Riri, a little girl somewhere between five and seven
  • Rose, a sixteen-year-old girl and the group’s newest addition

Together, these people create a foster family: protecting each other, passing on skills and knowledge, sharing stories, and holding true to their cultural heritage. Frenchie and his companions hope to escape the government’s reach in the far north, but they will first have to survive the wilderness, the government’s vicious Recruiters, their own past horrors, and betrayal.


Sometimes you risk everything for a life worth living, even if you’re not the one that’ll be alive to see it.

– Cherie Dimaline


As you might imagine, this book hit me like a gut punch. In our real world, we are dealing with cataclysmic effects of climate change, a widespread, mysterious disease that took out a huge portion of the global population, and the exposure of mass graves at the sites of former Indian residential schools. The Marrow Thieves was written in 2018, pre-pandemic, but it could not have been more prescient.


In our discussion of this book, Hailey pointed out that this book defies categorization. The story follows a teenage boy, but it does not follow the conventions of the YA category. It is a dystopia, but it draws on real, historical events as its background. It is incredibly accessible, a book that could be read by anyone of any age group or background, but it is also rich with symbolic meaning and layers of fascinating detail that could be analyzed for days.


I’m currently in the midst of an online class on Indigenous Canada, and I think that made a huge difference as far as being able to pick up on some of the deeper meanings and references that Dimaline wove into her story. For instance, here are some of the things that struck me on my first read-through:


  1. Oral Traditions: Dimaline very deliberately places a higher value on oral evidence over written words. For some context, certain Indigenous nations within Canada have a deep-rooted tradition of oral history and storytelling. This became a real challenge when various Indigenous peoples tried to establish their legal rights in court, because a hearsay story passed down through generations was considered less credible than a written document dating back several centuries. (Check out the Delgamuukw decision here and here for more information on that front.) But Dimaline flips the script in her novel. Oral narration is given a primacy and value through traditions like Story, whereas written words prove to be unreliable.
  2. The Role of Elders: Dimaline has no interest in restraining herself with YA conventions. The adult characters are as significant to the story as the teenagers, having just as much agency, value, and (without getting too spoilery) playing as central a role in the major plot events. Just as importantly, the teenage characters respect and admire their little group’s elders, valuing the well of knowledge and experience that they can provide.
  3. Real Traumas: Dimaline incorporates several past and current traumas faced by Indigenous people into her fictional world’s horrors. Residential schools, mass graves of children, resources stolen and stripped from Indigenous peoples, over-criminalization, gendered violence – each of these issues is reproduced within the world of the book. You cannot visit this world and then step back into our own, having had a nice feeling of escape; not when our own world has all the same horrors.


I could go on and on about The Marrow Thieves, but I will leave off with three more things for now. First, I alternated between reading a text version of the book and listening to the audiobook version. The latter experience was a fantastic way to really immerse myself into the oral storytelling tradition woven into the fabric of the story, so I would recommend that format for readers who’d enjoy that kind of experience. Second, Cherie Dimaline is releasing a sequel to the book later this year. If you are worried about starting an as-yet-incomplete series, in my opinion, the first book stands on its own well enough to satisfy the reader.


Finally, and this is a very important factor to consider — it was very difficult to read this book. In fact, there were a few times where I had to stop and set it aside before I could continue. Some people may find it too disturbing to read through The Marrow Thieves, and that is okay; you have to take care of your own mental health and comfort level. However, if you can handle it, you will find a brilliant, rewarding, rich text about family, and society, and the everyday dystopias that we do not question enough.



PS: As a disclaimer, neither of us are experts on Indigenous literature or on the Indigenous cultures of Canada. If you want a list of recommended Indigenous literature by more informed people, you can try here, or here , or here. I also highly recommend the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, established by Dr. Debbie Reese, which provides detailed discussions on the representation of Indigenous peoples in children’s literature; you can find it here.


If you want to learn a bit about some of the Indigenous cultures and history of Canada, there is a free course online through the University of Alberta, which you can check out here . You can also see the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s reports on the residential schools and some of the horrors faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada here.




Hello, readers!


July is gone, but its spirit lives on! Below is a compilation of some of the additions Hailey and I made to the Page and Prose website over the month of July.


Hailey has been building out our Instagram page, which you can find here. Come for the lovely monochromatic bookstack photography, stay for the fun Question of the Day in the comments section!


We finished our second monthly buddy read, on Cherie Dimaline’s The Marrow Thieves. Our full review can be found here, and you can also find a short review on our Instagram page (which again, is right here). We chose this book as part of our stated goal to read books by and about Indigenous peoples of Canada throughout the month of July — more on that later!


We weathered our first major technological crisis this month, which incidentally, is why our July wrap-up has been posted in August. It was all very exciting — the White Screen of Death! Critical error messages! Terror and mayhem! Anyway, let’s never do that again.


Hailey and I began the 2021 Indigo Reading Challenge, because we both had soooo much free time (she sobbed into her TBR list). Anyway, you can track how well we are doing here, and do feel free to join in!


This July, Hailey and I wanted to highlight Indigenous storytellers all month. It has become more important than ever to educate ourselves and to seek out #OwnVoices stories. While we are by no means authorities on Indigenous literature or cultures, here are some books we have read and would recommend:



  • This Place: 150 Years Retold, by various authors: An anthology that gathers ten stories from the perspective of Indigenous Canadians, reclaiming the narrative of the past 150 years of history. Lush, beautiful artwork accompanies these poignant stories that range from true biography to futuristic science fiction.


  • The Inconvenient Indian, by Thomas King: A non-fiction summary of the atrocities faced by Indigenous peoples across North America. This book is both incredibly funny and emotionally devastating, and it is an excellent place to gain a background understanding of Indigenous history in Canada and the United States.


  • The Marrow Thieves, by Cherie Dimaline: Dark, dystopian, but also disturbingly familiar, the story follows a rag-tag group of Indigenous survivors trying to stay one step ahead of government agents who are intent on harvesting their marrow as a medical resource.


  • Canada’s Indigenous Constitution, by John Borrows: Another non-fiction book, this one discusses legal systems that existed in Canada long before European settlers ever arrived, through to modern Canadian/Aboriginal law. I found this book through my law school reading lists, and while it is definitely more technical than The Inconvenient Indian, the book undertakes the much-needed project of reframing Indigenous peoples’ relationship with Canadian law throughout history.

An Indigenous Canadian boy with a streak of white paint on his cheek against a dark blue background





If you have your own recommendations, send them over to us, or post them in the comments!


Once again, I should let you know that I am no expert on Indigenous literature or on the Indigenous cultures of Canada. If you want a better list by more informed people, you can try here, or here , or here. I highly recommend the American Indians in Children’s Literature blog, established by Dr. Debbie Reese, which provides detailed discussions on the representation of Indigenous peoples in children’s literature; you can find it here. And if you want to learn a bit about some of the Indigenous cultures of Canada, there is a free course online through the University of Alberta, which you can check out here . You can also see the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s reports on the residential schools and some of the horrors faced by Indigenous peoples in Canada here.


In some book-related news: it has been the month of Neil Gaiman around here. First, we got an announcement that Good Omens is getting a second season. Then, we heard that Anansi Boys is getting its very own adaptation. Most importantly of all, my mother read The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and she loved it so much that she now wants to read all of Neil Gaiman’s other works.


Happy reading, friends!




The End of Men was, in a word, phenomenal. I wasn’t sure how I would feel reading a book about a global pandemic whilst in the midst of a global pandemic, but if anything it only made the story more compelling because the worldwide response to the “Male Plague” seemed highly believable. 

In 2025, a startling medical anomaly emerges in a Scottish hospital. Dr. Amanda MacLean tries to alert public health services and relevant branches of the government, but her cries of alarm are ignored and soon a terrifying virus is sweeping across the world – a virus that only affects men. Narrated by various women (and a few men) in the UK and other parts of the world, The End of Men is a thoroughly engaging debut novel that explores family, grief, motherhood, gender dynamics, and how a catastrophic event affects the human race both on a personal and global scale.

The book was an interesting thought experiment about how deeply gender and sex shape our societies and how removing nearly half of the world’s population from the equation truly highlights the lack of equality and balance across the political and professional landscape. In addition the book was so emotionally gripping that you simply can’t put it down. From the incomprehensible grief of suddenly one’s sons/husband/father/brothers all in quick succession, to the relief of having female children that are not at risk of dying, to the guilt of being an asymptomatic female carrier of the virus and unwittingly passing the disease on to your loved ones – there was such raw and palpable emotion that you couldn’t not be moved.

There were however, some aspects of the book where it became difficult to suspend disbelief, namely when it came to “scientific” discourse about the virus. I find it extremely improbable that it would take months of round the clock research by all the world’s greatest scientific minds before someone would realize that a virus that affects individuals on the basis of biological sex might have something to do with XY chromosomes. Honestly, I’m no geneticist or virologist but I thought that as soon as I read the words “male plague”. The explanation about immunity was similarly unlikely, but if you wave away the questionable science it’s still a fantastic reading experience.

I have never felt so powerful. This must be what men used to feel like. My mere physical presence is enough to terrify someone into running. No wonder they used to get drunk on it.

Christina Sweeney-Baird

Could there have been more diversity in the narration? Sure. Most of the key characters are educated and middle-class, and there is minimal racial diversity, however, to give the author the benefit of the doubt this is a fairly accurate reflection of the scientific community and political leaders. Could there have been more commentary on gender vs. sex and LGBTQIA2S+ issues? Perhaps. There was one chapter briefly addressing the affects of the plague on Trans individuals and gay men, and there was some speculation on the nature of female sexuality (women who had never before dated other women doing so after the majority of the male population has died). Again, to give the author the benefit of the doubt, perhaps she does not feel it is her place to speak on behalf of an entire community when she is not an expert. All authors write what they feel comfortable talking about and not every novel can fully address every issue. So, while in the spirit of objectively I have laid out some possible “short-comings”, I thought that the book did a great job of what it set out to do – explore the impact on the human race if a disease only affected one sex.

I thoroughly recommend this book for any fans of The Power or  Y: The Last Man. It’s one of my favourite reads of 2021 so far and I’m very much looking forward to exploring more of  Christina Sweeney-Baird ‘s work in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and Doubleday Canada for providing an eARC of this book for review.

– Hailey


Cover of Skyward Inn, by Aliya Whiteley

Skyward Inn was certainly unique. I took a few days after I finished reading this book to collect my thoughts and I’m still not entirely sure how I feel. Aliya Whiteley succeeded at creating an engaging novel that captivates the reader. I was thoroughly invested in the story and I didn’t want to put the book down, however, I’m not sure if that’s a credit to the actual writing or simply an indication of how confused I was and much I wanted answers.

We burn history down, over and over, as an act of remembrance. When there are no answers, there is recollection, and repetition.

– Aliya Whiteley

I was a bit irked by the alternating points-of-view (Jem’s was first person, yet Fosse’s was third person) and I thought that some unnecessary elements were added simply to unsettle the reader, when the surrealist nature of the book would have been sufficiently unsettling on it’s own. I really could have done without Fosse’s masturbatory scenes at the farm and the rather distasteful revelation about “brew” and bodily fluids. There was also a sudden and unexplained timeline shift toward the end of the book that didn’t feel all that effective as a plot device.

Initially, the book seemed to be a commentary about colonialism and the exploitation of indigenous peoples, their land and their resources. When the “Kissing Gates” appear on Earth, humans immediately seize the opportunity to mount a military incursion on the planet of Qita. They then take advantage of the Qitan’s peaceful nature in order to appropriate the planet’s resources and bring them back to Earth. Ultimately, it is revealed that the Qitan’s aren’t quite as docile as they appear, and that maybe it isn’t the humans who are the colonizers. So perhaps the story is actually a critique of human arrogance. Either way, it was a stunning twist that I very much was not expecting.  The author also makes a powerful statement about the nature of assimilation and how little choice people are often given in the matter.

Most of the story is set in the Western Protectorate, which seceded from the UK and rejected all modern technology following the appearance of the Kissing Gates. I thought that the Western Protectorate beautifully encapsulated the concept of hiraeth, a Welsh word with no true English equivalent that can be translated as a “longing for a home that no longer exists or never was”. Many characters in the book have an idealized, nostalgic view of the Protectorate that they try to cling to even if change is inevitable. I think that in our rapidly changing world, where technology seems to take precedence, the desire for simpler times will resonate with a lot of readers.

At then end of the day, I do think that Skyward Inn is a worthwhile read. Stylistically, it’s quite different from other books on the market and the content will challenge the reader’s perceptions and leave them thinking long after they finish reading.

Thank you to NetGalley and Solaris Books for providing this ARC.

– Hailey


I first read The Power last January and I loved it. When I found out that my book-club would be reading this book for our next meeting, I was interested to see if my reaction to this book would be the same after the intervening year (especially after a year like 2020). Sometimes I find that a bit of the magic can be lost during a reread because you already know everything that will happen, but this book is such a remarkable social commentary and Naomi Alderman’s writing is so richly nuanced that there is something new to discover or think about each time you reread The Power.


Gender is a shell game. What is a man? Whatever a woman isn’t. What is a woman? Whatever a man is not. Tap on it and it’s hollow. Look under the shells: it’s not there.

– Naomi Alderman

Sometimes we are so used to “things as they are”, that we don’t notice the absurdity ingrained in our societal norms. Gender inequality and gender-based violence has existed for thousands of years, has been so tightly woven into the fabric of our lives that we tend to ignore or overlook the infinite number of small ways in which our day to day lives are determined by gender dynamics. Sure we take notice of the anomalies, things that make news headlines, but not all violence or oppression is so overt. We think it’s absolutely normal to tell our female children to be careful around boys, to not walk alone, to exercise caution in order to ensure their own safety. Why wouldn’t we do these things? Yet, when it is flipped in reverse, when male children in the novel are ferried to school on separate buses, to avoid girls at school or outside the home in an effort to ensure their physical safety, it seems silly. We cannot fathom a world in which teenage boys or grown-men should be scared of schoolgirls because our society consistently teaches us that the balance of power lies with men, that women are, if not outright weak, then at least less intimidating, less physically capable.

When women around the world suddenly gain a new electrical power, they become physically stronger, more imposing than their male counterparts and the global balance of power shifts. The pendulum swings in the favour of women and now men find themselves oppressed and even endangered. Let’s make this patently clear, this is not feminism. Feminism is by definition the belief in and the quest for equality – a society based upon misandry would be just as toxic and damaging as a society based upon misogyny. In truth, the world of The Power is not so disparate from our own, the only difference is which gender holds power and privilege, who is the oppressor and who is the oppressed. It is very clear that we would not want to live in a world such as the one in the book, so why then do we accept our world as it is? Gender supremacy and a rigidly imposed gender binary serve no benefit to us as a society, no matter which way you slice it.

Really, you could write a thesis, multiple theses, about all the themes in this book. Alderman explores
politics, terrorism, violence, love, religion, revisionist history, journalistic integrity, disability, identity, navigating the web of lies and half-truths on the internet, and yes, power. Why does anyone exert their power over another human being? Simply because they can.

– Hailey

One of them says, ‘Why did they do it?’ And the other answers, ‘Because they could.’ That is the only answer there ever is.

          – Naomi Alderman