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Fiction Dystopian

Moon of the Turning Leaves

by (author) Waubgeshig Rice

Random House of Canada
Initial publish date
Oct 2023
Dystopian, Native American & Aboriginal, Suspense
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Oct 2023
    List Price

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Twelve years after the lights go out . . .
An epic journey to a forgotten homeland
The hotly anticipated sequel to the bestselling novel Moon of the Crusted Snow.

In the years since a mysterious cataclysm caused a permanent blackout that toppled infrastructure and thrust the world into anarchy, Evan Whitesky has led his community in remote northern Canada off the rez and into the bush, where they’ve been rekindling their Anishinaabe traditions, isolated from the outside world. As new generations are born, and others come of age in a world after everything, Evan’s people are stronger than ever. But resources around their new settlement are drying up, and elders warn that they cannot stay indefinitely.
Evan and his teenaged daughter, Nangohns, are chosen to lead a scouting party on a months-long trip down to their traditional home on the shores of Lake Huron—to seek new beginnings, and discover what kind of life—and what danger—still exists in the lands to the south.

Waubgeshig Rice’s exhilarating return to the world first explored in Moon of the Crusted Snow is a brooding story of survival, resilience, Indigenous identity, and rebirth.

About the author

Waubgeshig Rice is an author and journalist from Wasauksing First Nation on Georgian Bay. He has written three fiction titles, and his short stories and essays have been published in numerous anthologies. His most recent novel, Moon of the Crusted Snow, was published in 2018 and became a national bestseller. He graduated from Ryerson University’s journalism program in 2002 and spent the bulk of his journalism career at CBC, most recently as host of Up North, the afternoon radio program for northern Ontario. He lives in Sudbury with his wife and two sons.


Waubgeshig Rice's profile page

Excerpt: Moon of the Turning Leaves (by (author) Waubgeshig Rice)

They walked all morning down a familiar trail until the sun blazed high above them, the heat nearing its peak on this early-summer day. They followed faded trail markings tied on the low branches of the trees that closed in around them. Two years after the permanent power failure, Evan had tied these in roughly ten-metre intervals to mark the path from the old reserve site to the new camp. The orange tape was fraying at the ends, and some had lost nearly all colour.

Evan had told the others that he wanted to stop at the old reserve first, but hadn't said why. Nangohns assumed he wanted to scavenge for anything that might be of use on their trek. The route they had settled upon followed the big river south, and to get there, they had to walk east first, through the former rez. It had been years since most of them had seen their old houses and the buildings in which they once worked, lived and played.

"We gotta be getting close, eh?" Cal asked no one in particular. They had walked mostly in solemn silence all morning, but by now they had reached the anonymity and neutrality of the deep forest.
"Just up this way is the far end of the rez, the west side," confirmed Evan.

* * * * *

The summer humidity and afternoon heat fell upon them, and beads of sweat formed on their brows and shoulders. Shoots of grass burst up through the road, some up to their waist. The overgrown ditches seemed to close in on the former roadway.

Evan's nose picked up a hint of sweetgrass as they approached the former centre of town, where major buildings like the outdoor hockey rink, band office, school, and gymnasium still stood. The grey metal roof of the rink to their right was intact, but the thick white plastic boards that enclosed the ice surface had mostly collapsed. Ahead, the brown outer walls of the band office were faded, and scorched in some places. Trees and bushes grew high around the school and gym, and most of the windows of all the buildings were broken.

Evan had not planned to stop anywhere else here; anything useful had been picked clean long ago. The crunch of gravel below the soles of his boots evoked a haunted memory of the place as he led them eastward, past the familiar sites—the baseball field and jumping rocks on the shore of the big lake. The grey gravel infield of the ball diamond had become green with weeds, and the outfield grass was as high as the chain-link fencing that enclosed the play area. The wooden bleachers were long gone.

They approached the community store on their left.

"Remember this freakin' place," grumbled J.C. Nangohns did, vaguely. It had been part of a chain of grocers servicing First Nations in the north that sold food at inflated prices to the people who lived there. Nangohns remembered pleading with her mother to buy her something from the colourful candy display at the checkout counter, but being told it cost too much money—a common refrain from the other grown-ups about that store. Now, the front door stood open, but it was too dark inside to see if the shelves were still there. In the first days of the blackout, panicked shoppers had ransacked the place. Evan thought back to scanning the near-empty shelves that day in astonishment. He realized now, that had been just the beginning.

Down the road beyond the store there was a long slope, heavily overgrown. This was where the ploughs had dumped what they cleared from the roads every winter, creating an enormous snowbank—yet another grim landmark from that first winter. According to the scattered stories Nangohns had picked up over the years, this was where Tyler and Isaiah had dumped the body of the man called Justin Scott, whose handguns they had come for and now carried. They had dragged his corpse there on a sled, his body drained of blood from the bullet hole in his head. They rolled the intruder's nearly three-hundred-pound frame down the bank and left it there to freeze: a warning to any other potential trespassers. By spring, his remains were gone, eaten up and carried away by the birds and animals.

If the tangled slope had stirred these memories in Evan and Tyler, they did not let on. They fixed their eyes on the bush ahead, steering them east, with hopes of reaching the river by the late afternoon, where they'd set up camp for the night. As expected, the service road along the hydro lines that led south was completely grown over and unreliable for passage or guidance. They knew the river would lead them south and eventually to the city of Gibson—the next major stop on their trek. It was a route their ancestors had followed since long before wires cut through the land.

Evan led them into the thick brush, and they swatted at flies for hours until it was time to settle by the river and rest for the night.

Editorial Reviews

Praise for Moon of the Turning Leaves

“A cause for celebration. . . . Rice has created not only a compulsive narrative, but, perhaps more significantly, a compelling world, rooted in both the traditions of the Anishinaabe and the ashes of late-stage capitalism. It’s a powerful, tour de force accomplishment which will leave readers hoping for a third book.” Toronto Star

“[Moon of the Turning Leaves] smoulders with mounting tension, punctuated by flashes of shocking violence. But from the opening scene . . . Rice reminds the reader that regeneration can always follow disaster.”The Globe and Mail
“Rice’s storytelling is at its peak. . . . His prose is lovely and descriptive but readable, showing his journalistic roots.” Winnipeg Free Press

“[Moon of the Turning Leaves] is gripping, to say the least, and it’s a haunting read that’ll linger in the recesses of your mind for quite some time.” Book Riot

“[A] harrowing and hopeful sequel. . . . Rice puts a refreshing, Indigenous perspective on postapocalyptic tropes, folding in both nostalgia for a world fading away and hope for a different future from a people who have survived similar harsh conditions in the past. The humanity and heart on offer here make this a showstopper.” Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“There’s a kindness, a gentleness, and a deep respect at the heart of the culture Rice portrays, and it stands in refreshing contrast to the usual violence and cynicism of most dystopian fiction. Rice’s evocation of the countryside is gorgeous and immersive; the land becomes an essential character in its own right. This is a pastoral travel tale of much grander scope than its predecessor and a powerful, remarkable follow-up.” Booklist (starred review)

“Constant, low-level tension . . . contrasts with the occasional pulse-pounding, harrowing moments, which will keep readers glued to the page. Rice renders an achingly realistic portrayal of a broken, post-apocalyptic world that still manages to contain hope and beauty.” Library Journal (starred review)

“An epic journey into the future, powerfully haunting.” —Silvia Moreno-Garcia, bestselling author of Mexican Gothic

“Tense, atmospheric, and ultimately hopeful, Rice masterfully delivers an unsettling, page-turning sequel.” —Eden Robinson, author of Son of a Trickster
“It felt like an eternity waiting for Waubgeshig to write the sequel to Moon of the Crusted Snow and it was worth it. As we as a species ponder our own survival, this talented author walks his courageous characters through an odyssey towards hope. At times heart-racing and at times heart wrenching, Moon of the Turning Leaves allows us all to turn the page and find out what’s next in an uncertain future.” —Catherine Hernandez, award-winning author and screenwriter of Scarborough the novel and film

“If you've ever wondered how the Anishinaabe way would fare after the Great Collapse, this is the novel for you. Fans of McCarthy’s The Road and Kirkman’s The Walking Dead will feel right at home here with the intrigue, the dread and the hope. What a magnificent read. Mahsi cho, Waubgeshig Rice. Bravo!” —Richard Van Camp, author of The Lesser Blessed and Loyal to Heaven

“[Moon of the Turning Leaves] is by turns beautiful and inspiring and bleak and violent. In other words, the perfect dystopian read. Let's hope Waubgeshig Rice doesn't make us wait too long for the next visit to this captivating world.” —Alma Katsu, author of The Fervor and The Hunger

“Novels, when brilliantly written, are passports to another place, another world. Moon of the Turning Leaves takes us to a First Nations community beset by an unbelievable fate that’s managed to survive when much of the world hasn't. Rice has given us a meaningful journey, and people to cheer for. I was in this story.” —Drew Hayden Taylor, author of Motorcycles and Sweetgrass and Cold

“Waubgeshig Rice's stories are good medicine. Moon of the Turning Leaves is a restorative balm for my spirit.” —Angeline Boulley, New York Times bestselling author of Firekeeper's Daughter and Warrior Girl Unearthed

“Rice quite brilliantly weaves this sequel to Moon of the Crusted snow such that the ongoing journey of those wonderfully drawn characters carries on seamlessly. Moon of the Turning Leaves stands on its own while simultaneously carrying the heart of the original story. Suspenseful and gripping, the great anticipation for this next installment is borne out by this artful storytelling.” —Michelle Good, award-winning author of Five Little Indians and Truth Telling

“Less a sequel than another important volume in the annals of genuine rural storytelling, Moon of the Turning Leaves carries readers on a harrowing and vital journey through a northern landscape that is remaking itself. . . . This is a novel that hums with strength and hope in the face of violence and brutality, and hinges on a simple act of love. These characters will not settle for merely surviving, and they brave the darkest miles for their community to find a home long stolen and waiting for their return.” —Kevin Hardcastle, author of In the Cage

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