A coming-of-age story you’ve never encountered before. Tanya Tagaq’s debut novel resonates with her experimental style as a musician and the harsh yet enchanting spirit of Nunavut, Canada. Split Tooth has a majestic, intricate force to its expression that made me cling to the book in silence for several minutes after finishing it, haunted by its tale that straddles the line between reality and fantasy.
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Split Tooth introduces the indigenous culture of Canada through the life experiences of a girl in the 1970s. The story is as disturbing as it is sweet as she shares with us the joys and indiscretions, the norms and abuses entailed in enduring icy Nunavut.
Days and nights that last months. The Inuit culture’s nature-loving spirituality pushing through Christian doctrine. And above it all the Northern Lights, enriching and even joining in the narrative.
Poetic & Prosaic Narration
Tagaq has applied her full lyrical skills in the telling of this story. The plot is fragmented into alternating poetry and prose, each shard of the narrative sharp and poignant. A few scattered drawings also feature in the book.
Together they all form a fractured reflection of Nunavut’s society, rife with rage, repression, substance abuse, and sexual assault, but also vibrant with the feral beauty of nature and humans who still revere her. Split Tooth invites you to pay close attention to the details.
Fresh Magic Realism
Canada’s landscape and the Inuit core of the story lend unique imagery and concepts to its gradually emerging magic realist thread. The heroine has bizarre dreams and experiences throughout her life, culminating in a striking, almost allegorical climax.
The book challenges many things through its imagination, including Christianity, humanity’s embrace of rationality, its rejection and abuse of nature and people, and, especially, the loss of indigenous identity and spirituality.
Split Tooth really is a stunning debut novel worth diving into. Open your mind and take your time with it. Absorb all the aspects of beauty and pain this Inuit girl wants you to see. To understand.
Experimental literature… Good or not? Share your thoughts.
And keep exploring the forms magic realism can take.