Indian Horse by Richard Wagamese

Rating: 5/5

What It’s About:

Saul Indian Horse has hit bottom. His last binge almost killed him, and now he’s a reluctant resident in a treatment centre for alcoholics, surrounded by people he’s sure will never understand him. But Saul wants peace, and he grudgingly comes to see that he’ll find it only through telling his story. With him, readers embark on a journey back through the life he’s led as a northern Ojibway, with all its joys and sorrows.

For Saul, taken forcibly from the land and his family when he’s sent to residential school, salvation comes for a while through his incredible gifts as a hockey player. But in the harsh realities of 1960s Canada, he battles obdurate racism and the spirit-destroying effects of cultural alienation and displacement. Indian Horse unfolds against the bleak loveliness of northern Ontario, all rock, marsh, bog and cedar. Wagamese writes with a spare beauty, penetrating the heart of a remarkable Ojibway man.


What I liked

Indian Horse was an amazing book for me to experience. It was a fast read at about 200ish pages. I’m amazed that Richard Wagamese was able to fit such an incredible story in so few pages. I just loved his writing style. The story is told first person from the point of view of the main character, Saul Indian Horse. Wagamese has a simple yet poetic way of telling the story. I was fascinated when the story would talk about nature, Saul’s connection to it, and his memories of life before the residential school. His writing style reminded me of one of my other 5 star books this year, Plainsong by Kent Haruf.

Themes and Topics

Even though this book is fiction, I felt like I was reading a memoir. Indian Horse was a completely new experience for me. There were so many elements that I just couldn’t get enough of.

  • set in Canada during 1950’s – 1980’s
  • First Nations characters
  • residential schools
  • victims of abuse and life after
  • addiction/alcoholism
  • racism and treatment of Indigenous people
A Journey of Healing

This book has alot of heavy topics. Through this book, I was able to learn about history that I knew little about. I love when historical fiction pushes me to go digging around to learn more. What the children go through in this school is heartbreaking. I try to imagine what the children, parents, and families experienced and felt in those times. I look at the photos of those small faces and imagine what if one of those faces was my daughter. It absolutely brings me to tears.

What I also loved about Indian Horse is that despite all the dark and atrocious things that happened to Saul, the book follows him as he tries to find peace and tranquillity in his life. It was not an easy road. There was alot of pain, suffering, anger, but there were moments that he experienced joy, love, and acceptance. The big breakthrough that he has really caught me off guard. It also made complete sense. All the pieces finally clicked together.

Final Thoughts

I am so grateful that Iron Horse crossed my path. It is a book that everyone should read at some point in their lives. I have another book by Richard Wagamese, called Medicine Walk, in my collection and am really looking forward to reading it.

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear what you thought.



  1. I’m sure this book would be very heart wrenching and hit home for a lot of people in terms of the themes and healing! Thanks for sharing this review!

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