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Book Review: Firekeeper's Daughter


Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Angeline Boulley’s debut novel sweeps you right into its story and hustles you along with barely time to take a breath, until it finally deposits you onto the last page. At least that is what it did for me. Despite its 488 page length I finished the book in two sittings. 

The story is told from the viewpoint of Daunis, a smart and athletic young woman who is a fresh high school graduate. As the book starts she is about to tell her mother and grandma that she’s foregoing her dream to go to the University of Michigan and will instead stay in Sault Ste Marie and start college at Lake State University.

Daunis Fontaine has always thought of herself as an outsider. With a white mother and an Ojibwe father, Daunis lives near the Ojibwe reservation. But because of “bad choices” made at the time of her birth, Daunis’ father is not named on her birth certificate, robbing her of official membership in the tribe. 

She’s staying in town because of the death of her uncle, and because her grandma had a stroke at her high school graduation party and has been in a nursing home since. 

When her step brother learns she’s not leaving he decides to introduce her to Jamie, the new guy who’s just moved to town and joined the hockey team. Sparks begin to fly, despite Daunis’s initial hesitation.

But as the story develops a series of deaths related to meth use happen, and we learn that Jamie might not be who he seems to be. Daunis suddenly finds herself enlisted as a confidential informant in an FBI investigation into a drug ring impacting native communities.

From there things race along as Daunis begins to piece together the clues that will point the FBI to the drug ring, who are operating right under the noses of the local community.

There is a fascinating amount of Ojibwe culture that the book brings out, along with a wonderful exploration of Sault Ste Marie and the neighboring Sugar Island, ancestral land of the local Ojibwe band.

In the author’s note Boulley says that the inspiration for the book came from an incident in her high school years.  A friend mentioned a new guy at her school because she thought he seemed the author’s type. Though Boulley  never met him she later learned that he was actually an undercover narcotics cop. She then mentions her love of the Nancy Drew books and says she has been working on the story over the years since. 

The result is a lot more than a simple Nancy Drew story. There is a layer of realism in the racism, drug deaths, murder and rape which happen in this book that Nancy Drew stories don’t typically deal with. And another layer on top of that in the rich Ojibwe cultural details and Upper Peninsula setting. The all too common lack of justice for Native American women adds a further layer as the book reaches its conclusion. 

Poking around on Goodreads I see that Boulley has another book expected to come out next year featuring some of the same characters from this one. I’m looking forward to it!

RATING:  Four Stars ⭐⭐⭐⭐

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Title: Firekeeper’s Daughter

Author: Angeline Boulley

Publisher: Henry Holt (MacMillan)

Publish Date: March 16, 2022

ISBN-13: 9781250766564

Publisher’s List Price: $18.99 Hardcover (as of 11/2022)