Customer Review

Reviewed in Canada on February 5, 2004
This story was written and set in my hometown of Winnipeg. I'm writing a review not because I feel the need to examine or analyse, but rather because this book had a major impact on me when I was around 13 and I think its incredible that it has not gained greater recognition/appreciation.
To summarize in brief, this book is a told through the eyes of April, a young Metis girl whose parents are caring but neglectful alcoholics. The story follows April and her sister, Cheryl, as they are taken from their parents and enter the foster care system. Passed from white family to white family, their lives are comfortable at best, hell at the worst; never are they truly at home, rarely do they see their parents. Their experiences differ because they are split up almost immediately. Their difference in experience lead them down divided paths - one of them extremely tragic.
As a teenage white girl, this book shocked and horrified me. Out of all the books I read during that time period, I think this one drew the most empathy and the most lasting reaction. I can still recall the nightmarish rape scene from this book and cringe at the memory. Culleton is an amazing writer. She draws you into the story and the hearts of the characters. Its impossible to put the book down and simply forget about what you've read. I believe Culleton based the book on her own experiences, but I'm not certain. What I do know for a fact is that this book is realistic. I live in this city, I grew up in the neigbourhood written about, and friends of mine work for CFS (Child & Family Services). This book is not an exaggeration and knowing that for a fact when you read it makes for even more of an impact.
The story is dramatic and touching. I reread it a number of times - first the "censored" version and then In Search of April Raintree (uncensored) after my school librarian told me about it. I'm almost tempted to say its not a book for kids, but then I don't think it did me any harm. It woke me up a bit, definitely. I remember sobbing in an armchair after finishing it.
The characters stay with you. Like all well-written books, this one is literally mood-altering. The writing is so well done that you become the main character and feel almost a physical pain over what she endures and suffers. If anything, this book should be read to encourage simple empathy. At best, it could be hoped that it would provide greater understanding and insight into the experiences of many children and over the well... no other word but 'plight' is coming to mind right now, so the 'plight' of many Native/Metis Canadian people.
(I'm sleepy as I write this but I'm hoping my recommendation will hold up. Also, I just checked online and found this: "Although only loosely based on Culleton's own childhood experiences as a foster child, the book is dedicated to her two sisters, who, like Cheryl Raintree, commited suicide as adults.")
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