USEREVIEW 098 (Capsule): The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour
The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour (Freehand Books, 2021)
ISBN 978-1-98829-887-0 | 306 pp | $24.95 CAD | BUY Here
The prairie chicken — a rare bird that nearly went extinct in the early twentieth century but is now working on a comeback — is known as a strong flyer, so it only makes sense that a book named after the species would take the reader on a whirlwind tour. In Dawn Dumont‘s latest novel we travel through 1970s Europe alongside a hastily assembled group of Indigenous dancers who have grudgingly agreed to fill in after the regular troupe members come down with food poisoning. Like Dumont’s previous novels, such as Rose’s Run, The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour is a page-turner of a story undergirded by character-driven humour and warm-heartedness. Don’t let that fool you, though; this is also a novel willing to confront serious issues, such as contentions around Christianity among residential school survivors, or the difficulty one character faces in coming to terms with being two-spirit. The Prairie Chicken Dance Tour is a book that acknowledges the complexity of identity, and assumes that oppressions are intersectional, but is equally invested in putting on a good show.
John’s final section in chapter 2 (pp. 49–52) offers us our first real glimpse of the Prairie Chicken Dance Tour troupe together: serious, earnest but exhausted troupe leader John, who just wants to get back to his horses, Edna, a pious Christian woman who fretfully watches over, and harbours a devastating secret about, her flirtatious and fun-loving teenaged niece Desiree, and the young stranger Lucas, the biggest troublemaker and best dancer of all of them, who is not what he seems to be.