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!




I’ve heard so many wonderful things about Alex Michaelides’ writing, so I knew I had to read The Maidens. It did not disappoint! This was such a gripping thriller and I loved the inclusion of themes from Greek tragedy and mythology.

Mariana is awash with grief after the sudden death of her husband Sebastian. Struggling just to make it through the days, Mariana’s cocoon of solitude and loss is disrupted when she receives a frantic call from her niece Zoe at Oxford. Zoe’s friend Tara has gone missing and she fears for the worst. When Tara’s body is discovered, brutally murdered, Mariana quickly becomes embroiled in a sweeping conspiracy involving enigmatic professor Edward Fosca and his unnerving group of acolytes, known as the “Maidens”.

Filled with loads of twists, red herrings and astonishing revelations, The Maidens was a wonderfully written tale of love, loss and betrayal. The ending was absolutely astounding – I’m honestly still reeling and trying to wrap my head around it. If you want to be shocked and awed, this is the book for you!

 ‘It was written’ is the Greek expression. Meaning, quite simply, from that moment on, their destinies were sealed. 

– Alex Michaelides

On a whim I decided to take a chance on the audiobook, however, I now wish that I had chosen a print copy instead. As much as I admire Louise Brealey as an actress, (her voice-work was objectively excellent), I just don’t feel like audiobooks are the right format for me. I enjoy ambient noise and regularly go about my day with headphones in, but I tend to tune out the specifics of the music/sounds etc. and I simply could not break that habit when listening to an audiobook. I would actively try to listen but soon enough I’d filter out the words and end up having to rewind entire chapters. I also missed the actual act of reading a book and seeing the words set down on paper (or screen in the case of ebooks). I’m sure that people who regularly enjoy audiobooks will love this recording, I just think I’ll try to stick to print in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and Macmillan Audio for providing a copy of this audiobook for review. It was certainly a wild ride!

– Hailey


Objectively, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev is a great book. I really wanted to love it, but personally, I had a very difficult time getting past the writing style. I truly did not like the “interview” style narration of the story. I don’t mind multiple narrators, I often like that style of writing, but something about the transcript format of Opal & Nev kept taking me out of the story – I found it distracting and hard to engage in the story.

As a reader I was already at a disadvantage as I know next to nothing about three of the main themes of the book – the music industry, the 1970s, and life in the United States; there was no personal connection that would have made it easier for me to relate to the story at hand, so when that was compounded by a narration style that I really did not care for, the entire reading experience was rather lacklustre. There also seemed to be a lot of references to the American music scene and politics in the 70s which were totally lost on me.

I did really like Opal and Sunny, both strong women in their own right, forced to confront racism, sexism and character assassination. It was fascinating to compare the two characters, the similarities and differences in the way they approached their lives, careers and society at large.

I think many people will really love this book, the actual story is very good and themes are incredibly relevant to current events. The style simply wasn’t a fit for me, something that’s bound to happen from time to time when reading.

Thank you to NetGalley and Simon & Schuster Canada for providing an e-copy of this book for review.

– Hailey



How did I not just let life run me over? I’m sorry, I don’t usually use this word, but it’s because fuck that. I believe in myself above all.

Dawnie Walton


A Million Things is a heart-wrenching story told from the perspective of ten year old Rae who forms an unlikely friendship with her elderly neighbour Lettie. Rae’s always taken on more responsibility at home than most children her age, but with her mum suddenly gone she’s got to keep everything together on her own. Rae must care for herself and her dog Splinter, buy groceries, cook meals, clean the house and pay bills all while trying to avoid drawing the attention of nosy neighbours, school administrators or officials from the housing council. Her one source of comfort is taking long walks with Splinter through picturesque neighbourhoods, where she can envision a different kind of life.

Lettie has been consumed by grief for decades; her life and home have gotten so out of control that she’s reported to the housing council as a danger to the health and safety of the neighbourhood. When Lettie has an accident in her home one evening Rae comes to her aid, and so, after years of living side-by-side with minimal interaction, the pair unexpectedly become each other’s support system.

Both humourous and tragic, A Million Things is a riveting novel that I read all in one sitting. Emily Spurr’s prose was very well written and the characters exuded such raw emotion. I also loved the delightfully snarky banter between Rae and Lettie, (“kiddo”/”goat-o” had me in stitches). I liked how each chapter was a day in Rae’s life after her mum leaves – as the days continued to pass you could feel the increasing amount of strain on Rae as she tries to keep it all together, until it all just gets too much for her. Watching the count of the days increase also really highlighted how traumatic it would be for a young child to be on their own for such a long time.

Overall, it was a great debut novel and I look forward to reading more from Emily Spurr in the future.

Thank you to NetGalley and Text Publishing for providing an eARC of this book for review.

– Hailey




Time stops. I hang in the dark between then and now. It’s soft here. I can smell you. The you before. The you that smelled of citrus body cream and shampoo. I can feel your fingers on my hand. We’re all we’ve got.

Emily Spurr


The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World is one of the most beautiful stories I have read in quite some time. Laura Imai Messina is a masterful writer who took a topic that is often hidden from the public eye, (grief), and turned it into a captivating and lyrical tale about life and love enduring after a loss.

This book came into my life at such a perfect time – one year since the declaration of a global pandemic which has lead to so much loss of life and lifestyle throughout the world, and approaching the second anniversary of a very profound personal loss. Messina reminds us that grief, while an experience shared by many, is also deeply personal and we must give ourselves permission to grieve in our own way, in our own time even if that grief seems messy or protracted or confusing to others. What struck me was how respectful the characters in the book were of each other’s sense of loss and method of grieving. Often, at least in the Western world, there is an expectation that we must “overcome” our grief in a certain prescribed way, within a certain prescribed time for it to be considered “healthy”, so that we can “move on”.

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World elegantly demonstrates that life and love can continue and happiness can be found along side grief – there is no mutual exclusivity. We can mourn, speak to and honour the individuals we have lost, while still embracing the life and relationship that come “after”. Yui, Takeshi and Hana unexpectedly find each other because of the Wind Phone and their bond unfolds beautifully throughout the novel. I think that the Wind Phone at Bell Gardia is such an incredible idea and I so appreciate Messina sharing it with us through her novel.

I highly recommend this novel, I think it has become one of my new favourites! Thank you to Net Galley and The Overlook Press for providing and eARC of this book for review!

– Hailey




Later, Yui realized she had learned another important thing in that place of confinement: that silencing a man was equivalent to erasing him forever. And so it was important to tell stories, to talk to people, to talk about people. To listen to people talking about other people. Even to speak with the dead, if it helped.

Laura Imai Messina


One thing I love about book clubs is unexpectedly finding some truly incredible reads. I don’t know that I’d ever have picked up this novel if it hadn’t have been the January pick for my library book club, and I left reading it until the eleventh hour.

All I can say is that I’m so glad this story was thrust upon me, I absolutely devoured it and I didn’t want to put it down. A truly stunning portrait of a family struggling to come to terms with an impending loss and learning how to come together in meaningful ways. Luis Alberto Urrea elegantly demonstrates the impact of intergenerational trauma, decades of words left unsaid, complex family dynamics as well as the struggle and pride of immigrant families building a life in a new country. Urrea also does an excellent job interspersing humour and love throughout the tale.

As Big Angel, the family patriarch, comes to terms with his own mortality he also attempts to gather together his splintered family to ensure they will not only endure but prosper in his absence. There is a delightfully large and colourful cast of characters (that even their own family can’t keep track of! Little Angel’s chart at the back of the book is very helpful).

I adore this book; I laughed, I cried, I was blown away.  It was a great way to start off my 2021 reading journey.

– Hailey


That is the prize: to realize, at the end, that every minute was worth fighting for with every ounce of blood and fire.

Luis Alberto Urrea