Book Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

Firekeeper’s Daughter
Angeline Boulley

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I loved this terrific novel about Daunis Fontaine, a young woman who witnesses a shocking murder and agrees to go undercover for an FBI investigation into the proliferation of a dangerous type of locally manufactured methamphetamine. The investigation, and a developing romance with the enigmatic Jamie Johnson, an agent posing as a hockey player, completely upends Daunis’s already shaky balance between the Fontaine side of her family and her Ojibwe father’s Firekeeper family. Set in 2003-4, in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan, Daunis Fontaine lives with her mother, near the Ojibwe reservation where her Firekeeper family lives. Much of the two communities’ activities revolve around ice hockey and the high school, where Daunis has just completed her senior year.

Although her father, Levi, died years earlier, Daunis has close ties to the Firekeepers: Gramma Pearl, Aunt Teddie and Daunis’s half-brother, Levi. She’s equally close to her maternal grandmother, Grand Mary, who just suffered a stroke. And she wants to protect her mother, Grace, who mourns the unexpected death Daunis’s Uncle David. To help her mother care for Grand Mary, Daunis will attend college in town, instead of her dream school, University of Michigan.

The tension between the Fontaines and the Firekeepers goes back to when Grace, “the richest white girl in town” met Levi, a promising hockey player. When Grace discovered she was pregnant, her parents sent her away to have the baby and kept Levi Firekeeper’s name off the birth certificate. And when Grace returned, she discovered that Levi had married someone else and had fathered another baby, Levi, Jr.

Daunis fills her life with Ojibwe rituals, including daily offerings of semaa, a tobacco used to give thanks and communicate with the spirit world, and attends powwows to celebrate her tribal heritage. Aunt Teddie, a strong role model, wants to help Daunis become a strong woman, yet protects her from knowing too much too soon about the Ojibwe women’s blanket parties, a secret ritual that dispenses justice to men who have abused them.

Readers also learn about the community’s connections to each other and its racial divides, its struggles with drug abuse and alcoholism as well as the differences between enrolled Ojibwe descendants who receive allowances from the tribe’s casino, and others, like Daunis, who are not enrolled. But the Ojibwe, despite their problems, always show respect for the elders and the important wisdom they offer and this becomes an important theme of the book.

As the investigation continues, more young people go missing and questions arise about a drug ring inside the community. Daunis learns shocking truths about the people close to her, including Jamie, and she must make hard decisions about her future.

I enjoyed learning about the Ojibwe tribe, its beliefs and rituals, as well as the modern problems its members experience. And of course, it’s a sober reminder of the injustices Native Americans have suffered at the hands of white colonists. Although this is a Young Adult book, I think it’s an excellent read for all ages. The author, Angeline Boulley, is an enrolled member of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. This is her first novel.

Thanks for visiting—come back soon!

24 thoughts on “Book Review: Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley

  1. I’m so excited to read this review! Glad to see you enjoyed this book so much. I was gifted a copy of this one about a year ago, and just based on the cover, I assumed it was a fantasy story — I’m glad to have read your review, which now makes me much more interested in finally reading the book!

  2. I also found this book fascinating, especially living in Ontario and having Ojibwe people in our area. Wonderful review.

  3. Hi Barbara, this is an interesting sounding book. It is interesting that Daunis was allowed by the Fontaine family to have anything to do with her father’s family. I guess I’d have to read the book to find out how that came about.

    1. That’s a good observation, Robbie. I think because it was such a close and interconnected community and the fact that her half-brother was only a couple months younger than Daunis and they went to the same schools, it was unavoidable. When she turned 18, she had the option to become a registered member and her Fontaine family would have no control over that. Thanks for stopping by and commenting 🙂

Comments are closed.