A Song For My Daughter

Patricia Smith - Bio and Media
pb / 2008-04 / Fiction /
978-088982-244-3 / 460pp / $22.95

A Song for My Daughter, set in British Columbia in 1988, is an entrancing novel about transformation, healing and the irresistible magic inherent in telling stories. Vivian, the Old Woman who narrates the story, is a trickster figure with all the powers of Raven and all the savvy of a Greek chorus.

We first meet Vivian by her favourite fishing hole. With her we enjoy the taste of freshly-caught salmon cooked over an open fire, take a sip of a cold beer and listen to her stories. With Vivian as our guide, we follow the adventures of three women—Joan Dark, the mysterious and radiant Salmon Woman and daughter of Vivian; Mary Chingee, a Carrier-Sekani woman, estranged from her family; and Sally Cunningham, the spoiled daughter of wealthy Vancouver socialites. Recently released from a mental institution, this unlikely trio journeys up river into the heartland of BC in the hope of returning Mary to her ancestral home. Along the way, they meet, amongst others, cowboys, a revivalist preacher, a woman who runs a guest ranch and an old man without a shadow. Their exploits help us to discover what it means to be female at the end of the millennium, how it feels to be a marginalised minority, and what it takes to rebalance the world.

Adam Rivers, the Head Psychiatrist of the Fraserview Institute, also joins the story, first as a sympathetic advisor to the three women and then as the author of his own journal in which he records his conflicting and confused feelings. Since his first meeting with Joan, he has become obsessed by his memories of her, by the voices he has begun to hear and by her continuing appearance in his dreams. He finds himself in a state of desire and longing that is contrary to all the rules of his profession, and yet he gives in to a spell that not only lifts him out of his own loneliness but leads him to a suprising revelation.

Beautifully imagined and written, A Song For My Daughter, takes us on a multilayered and celebratory journey of love and survival. Through a collision of cultures, western and First Nations, the world is righted, as it must be if we are to survive and live in harmony and peace.

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