Review: Firekeeper's Daughter
Updated: Jan 4
Firekeeper's Daughter, by Angeline Boulley (2021)
TW: grief, suicide, murder, drug addition, & rape
Despite the heavy nature of the content warnings above, this is a fun, YA mystery novel. Daunis, an 18-year old young woman, lives in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, on the shores of Lake Superior and just across the border from Canada. She is half white, half Anishinaabe (also known as Ojibwe or Chippewa). Her "Nish" father and her uncle on her mother's side are both dead, and her beloved grandmother is suffering from dementia in a nursing home. She is grieving these losses, when her town is hit by another - her best friend is killed. In the aftermath, Daunis becomes a part of an FBI investigation into the production and sale of meth in the town, which may just be at the heart of her community's woes, including the loss of her uncle and her best friend.
It is an engaging story of intrigue, regret, betrayal, survival, and love. It definitely reads like a YA novel, so if that's not your thing, it's best to know that ahead of time. But I thought it was generally well-written, despite the sappy and, ultimately, very confusing romance between Daunis and Jamie, the new kid in town. I could also tell this was a debut novel that would have benefited from a bit more editing - a few too many characters, a few too many plot points, many of which were far fetched (for example, I just can't see the FBI enlisting a grieving and impulsive 18-year old to be THE major part of their drug smuggling investigation). But, the story still kept me very engaged throughout!
My favorite aspect of the book was actually the immersion into the Anishinaabe culture and community. I really enjoyed learning about their customs, language, and spirituality. Boulley herself is an Anishinaabe woman who grew up in the Upper Peninsula area, and remains very active in her native community there. She also served as the Director for the Office of Indian Education at the U.S. Department of Education. The community she built for this book felt robust and honest. The connection she feels to this community is clear in her writing, and makes the characters feel like they have real heart.
I also just really liked this quote: “When someone dies, everything about them becomes past tense. Except for the grief. Grief stays in the present.”
UP NEXT: Nowhere Boy, by Katherine Marsh