Essential Passage 1: Chapter 4, “The Beads”
I didn’t want June Morrissey when they first brought her to my house. But I ended up keeping her the way I would later end up keeping her son, Lipsha, when they brought him up the steps. I didn’t want her because I had so many mouths I couldn’t feed. I didn’t want her because I had to pile the children in a cot at night. One of the babies slept in a drawer to the dresser. I didn’t want June. Sometimes we had nothing to eat but grease on bread. But then the two drunk ones told me how the girl had survived—by eating pine sap in the woods. Her mother was my sister, Lucille. She died alone with the girl out in the bush.
Marie Kashpaw, June’s aunt, is the matriarch of the community, taking in stray children who need a home, as well as providing a home for her own children with Nector. When June is brought to her, Marie sees a wild, untamed child. Found in the wilderness by the Cree Indians, June is given a necklace of beads, not for her protection, but the protection of the Crees against whatever dark spirits are associated with the girl. Having survived on pine sap after her mother’s death, June comes to live with Marie and Nector (and will eventually run off with and marry her cousin Gordie). Though Marie loves June as one of her own, the child finds a closer bond with Eli, the twin brother of Marie’s husband, Nector. Never quite fitting in with the others, June nevertheless forms an integral part in the lives of the characters throughout the novel.
Essential Passage 2: Chapter 1, “The World’s Greatest Fishermen”
Even when it started to snow she did not lose her sense of direction. Her feet grew numb, but she did not worry about the distance. The heavy winds couldn’t blow her off course. She continued. Even when her heart clenched and her skin turned crackling cold it didn’t matter, because the pure and naked part of her went on.
The snow fell deeper that Easter than it had in forty years, but June walked over it like water and came home.
June Kashpaw is broke, having only enough money for a bus ticket, given to her by the last man she was with. She is on her way home to the reservation where her family lives: the aunt and uncle who raised her, her husband Gordie, and her children. She is tired from the journey and seeks someplace to rest and someone for companionship. Stopping at a bar with Andy, a man she met on the way, she goes with him in his car and has sex with him. This is the usual way she has managed to survive, finding a man to pay her way and then having sex with him. It is nothing new. After Andy falls asleep, June climbs out of the car and starts walking. Her thinking hazy from alcohol, she ignores the signs of the changes coming in the weather and keeps walking. The snow falls and the winds blow strongly, but still she keeps on walking. Becoming lost in the blizzard, June eventually freezes to death.
Essential Passage 3: Chapter 14, “Crossing the Water”
It’s a dark, thick, twisting river. The bed is deep and narrow. I thought of June. The water played in whorls beneath me or flexed over sunken cars. How weakly I remembered her. If it made any sense at all, she was part of the great loneliness being carried up the driving current. I tell you, there was...
(The entire section is 1443 words.)