Three Day Road by Joseph Boyden
An elderly Cree woman receives word that her nephew Xavier has been killed fighting in the First World War, and his best friend Elijah has been wounded. The boy she collects from the train is missing a leg, addicted to morphine, and is Xavier, not Elijah.
Elijah and his aunt took his childhood friend from the residential school when both boys were adolescents. The boys grew up together hunting, fishing, and trapping together in Northern Ontario, enlisted together, and both became snipers. But while Xavier kills out of necessity, Elijah revels in it. How the two friends switched places and what exactly happened at the front is tied up in the myth of the Wendigo, (a monster that once was human and is consumed by the hunger for human flesh) and unravels in unflinching detail.
This one is CanLit (aka Canadian Literature). It’s a masterfully told story about friendship and loyalty, the horrors of war, and madness. And I’m very glad I read it on a sunny August day, and not a bleak, grey January afternoon. Also, mind-bogglingly, it’s a first novel. Boyden is uncompromising and graphic in his descriptions of the violence and indignities of trench warfare, but never crosses the line into sensationalism. Adult fiction, will appeal to some older teens. Admittedly not for everyone, but highly recommended.