The Moon of Letting Go and other stories by Richard Van Camp. Enfield and Wizenty, 2009.
I looked up The Moon of Letting Go after hearing a listener, who had called in to a CBC radio show, speak about one of her favorite stories, ‘Show Me Yours’. This is the first of a dozen tales in Van Camp’s story collection and is very short, just a few pages long. It has a kernel of hope at its heart.
A young man wakes up in a bad place with bad people and in this low moment he looks at his grandfather’s leather necklace, the one that the priest gave him with a picture of some unknown saint. There on the top of the fridge is his favorite baby picture of himself, gathering lint and dust. He cleans up the picture and glues it over the saint and wears the necklace over his heart. It turns out to be a good luck charm of sorts because when a couple of punks rough him up a few nights later, they discover the leather necklace and let him go when they see his baby picture. Two days later, they show him their own pictures, strung around their necks. And that’s how it starts. Soon everyone has a leather necklace and a baby picture to share. So many beautiful babies inside everyone. Oh you were such a beautiful baby. Look at the dreams in your eyes. Show me yours.
Van Camp is a Dogrib (Ticho) Dene from Fort Smith, Northwest Territories, and now lives in Vancouver. His stories are set in these same locations and are linked by a shared culture. Many are not easy to read. They deal with drugs and alcohol and sex and abuse, but also love and tradition and caring.
My own favorite was the title story, in which a woman, estranged from her abusive spouse, fears a vengeful attack from his jealous lover. She finds protection in an unexpected place when a powerful and evil medicine man reaches out to her.
Some stories are humorous. In ‘Dogrib Midnight Runners’ three youth honour a dead friend by taking up his favorite pastime: streaking!
An intimate first-person voice breathes life into each of the stories, and at the end of the book, you feel like you have had a glimpse of, and maybe acquired some understanding of, a different world.