Fire Keeper’s Daughter

Fire Keeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Credits

Readability Age Range

Publisher

Awards

Year Published

Book Review

Daunis’ life is complicated, and nothing is as it appears on the surface. This biracial young woman doesn’t fit into anyone’s expectations or stereotypes. She is passionate, smart, fiercely loving toward her family and friends; and she’s as tough as her hockey prowess would suggest.

This story examines the difference between images people project for the benefit of others and their true identity. We see how the tribal community is Daunis’ source of strength throughout the story. She must sacrifice some of the relationships she holds most dear for the health of that community when she is pulled into an investigation that reveals the darkness that is poisoning it. Daunis fights against betrayal and overcomes the darkness as she for her people and herself.

Plot Summary

There is no such thing as business as usual for Daunis anymore. She is constantly in crisis mode. With family members suffering, a community in turmoil and a future in question after she graduates from high school, few things seem to make sense.

Daunis decides to stick around and attend community college the next year in an attempt to manufacture some normalcy. She is moving on from hockey and mourning a relative, when Jamie, the mysterious new “hockey god” pulls her further into the hockey community once again.

Hockey is one of the few connecting threads between the affluent Caucasian community and its bold Anishinaabe counterparts, besides Daunis herself. Neither community is completely willing to claim her, so she struggles to overcome prejudices about gender and race to become a strong and intelligent force for good in both.

Daunis, her friend, Lily; her brother, Levi; and his rowdy hockey teammates will rally again and again in their attempts to secure the future of the indigenous people and their beautiful traditions. But to what lengths will they go to for their people? Along the way, Daunis and Jamie form an unexpected connection. Her seems to understand her in a way few people do.

Evil threatens the people, as worlds collide in a dangerous fashion. Mishandling of income gained from the lottery creates tension in the tribe that escalates into desperate and dangerous attempts to make a profit. Repeated drug overdoses threaten the tribe, and Daunis does not sit idly by like so many others. Many people do not emerge unscathed. The branches of Daunis’s family tree bend, and she desperately tries to hang onto the people who protect her and bring her joy. Not all of her family members deserve it.

She finds the true roots of her identity as she discovers the real requirements for tribal membership.

Christian Beliefs

The Catholic church is mentioned in a relatively indifferent tone throughout the novel. Daunis’s Caucasian family members are a part of the Catholic church, and several Catholic funerals are attended. The novel also mentions the dark side of Christian history and its connection to the oppression of indigenous peoples. A hockey player uses a strange reference to Samson and Delilah in lewd sexual joke about abstinence during hockey season. Some Catholic characters are represented as racist and hateful towards those in the book who are identified as queer.

Other Belief Systems

Daunis ascribes to the traditional Anishinaabe religion. Several scenes involve practicing the religion. She prays and presents offerings. She performs rituals with different plants, attends to ceremonial fires and attempts a vision quest. Many discussions of the afterlife occur during and after funerals.

The religion involves people’s designation by a “spirit name,” and mystical “little people” who are angered by substance abuse.

Many tribal members practice a syncretistic form of Catholicism and the traditional religion.

Authority Roles

The authority figures in this novel range from trustworthy and devoted to destructive and abusive.

GrandMary is a strict-but-loving figure. She has plans for her family members and wants them to be respectable. Simultaneously, she is presented as a strong advocate for her relatives and an almost hateful racist toward the indigenous element of Daunis’ heritage.

Teddie, Daunis’ Aunt, is strong, protective, compassionate, and capable. Yet, she encourages the girls to drink and sleep with their boyfriends if they are doing it in a way that is “safe.”

Granny June is the eccentric, edgy, loving, grandmother of Lily. She is a strong influence in Daunis’ life, who fully embraces the traditions of her people. She also encourages rebellious behavior in Lily and Daunis.

Daunis’ Uncle is a loving man, who had a fatherly role in Daunis’ life. His integrity will be called into question throughout novel as accusations are thrown around.

Daunis’ Dad made many mistakes and died while she was young, causing her pain that last into her teen years.

The hockey coach who played a major role in her life is eventually revealed to have little regard for her well-being or that of the community. This follows the trend of failed authority that presents itself in the neglectful, drug addicted, or greedy parents of other teens in the tribe.

Elders and authorities are major figures in the novel. They shape the experiences of the younger characters; these positive figures are treated with a high level of respect. The novel resolves that the Elders are the foundation and strength of the community.

Profanity & Violence

Foul language is a factor in the novel progressively as the story goes on. Daunis tries to avoid swearing in front of her young relatives, so she often stops at “Holy.” All the older characters incorporate these words into their vocabulary. We hear about “lewd gestures.”

Many variations of the s-word occur. Other profanities throughout the book include “d–k” and “b—ch.” References to “puck sluts” and a “puck f—” are the teens creative insults for people dating hockey players.

Many of the characters are victims of and participators in violent behavior, as the novel addresses real societal issues. A blanket party is mentioned and attended, which is what happens when an indigenous woman who has been harmed by a man doesn’t get legal justice. Her cousins beat up the man, who is wrapped in a blanket in the woods, to achieve their own kind of justice. Children receive black eyes from Teddie, their mother, after misbehaving. Several stories are told in which she throat-punches people. Granny June says she and Teddie committed felonies in their past.

In a heartbreaking scene, one teen shoots another and then himself under the influence of drugs. The novel returns to the scene of that violence a few times, adding new information with each iteration.

Daunis is traumatized after encountering a dead body. At the stories climax, a car chase and accident occur after several death threats involving an axe.

Drugs play a big role in Daunis’ story. The dealing and using of meth are a major plot points in the novel. Experimentation with meth and mushrooms is discussed. The temptations, dangers, and tragedies of meth are addressed as the characters suffer from its effects. The slang terms for drugs and the process of making meth are mentioned.

On the opposite side of the spectrum, the teens love alcohol and suffer few consequences. They have a few parties with multiple kinds of drinks and a keg. The adults encourage the teens to drink in moderation.

Sexual Content

The sexual content of this novel is heavy and frequent. Casual sexual innuendos and lewd jokes appear a few times. Daunis herself was born when her mother was “knocked-up” at the age of 16.

Many of Daunis’ maternal figures discussing sleeping with multiple men in the past. Daunis and her friend talk about losing their virginity and sleeping with past and present boyfriends. Multiple STDs and birth control options are mentioned, and Daunis’ brothers uses girls like objects. We hear a crude reference to the male anatomy.

Sexual abuse is implied and explicitly depicted. Most of the information about the abuse is only comes to light afterword because of the physical and emotional scars the characters are shown to have received.

Adults and teens alike assume the normalcy of teens being sexually active, and masturbation is impled. Daunis is described as making love with a boyfriend.

The text briefly mentions that Daunis’s Uncle was gay.

Discussion Topics

None.

Get free discussion question for books at focusonthefamily.com/magazine/thriving-family-book-discussion-questions.

Additional Comments

Angeline Boulley’s story is poignant and suspense filled. The bonds of the community are beautiful, and Daunis’ selfless love for her family is a valuable and inspiring element. The characterization here is strong, and the plot is paced well. A story that challenges stereotypes about young women and indigenous people is refreshing, but careful consideration of the topics covered is important.

The strength of the characters and their bonds are unfortunately shaped by the heavy trauma many of them experience as well. Some of these topics—including substance abuse, the abuse of young females, overt racism as well as sexual encounters—are intense and inappropriate for young readers.

You can request a review of a title you can’t find at [email protected].

Book reviews cover the content, themes and worldviews of fiction books, not necessarily their literary merit, and equip parents to decide whether a book is appropriate for their children. The inclusion of a book’s review does not constitute an endorsement by Focus on the Family.

Review by Marsella Evans