Porcupines and China Dolls

  • Pages:302
  • Publisher:Theytus Books
  • Themes:Indigenous, First Nations, Native American, BIPOC, POC
  • Pub Date:06/01/2009
  • Age Groups:Adult Fiction

"A terrific book that deals with present day concerns."—Thomas King, Governor General's Award–wining author of The Back of the Turtle and The Inconvenient Indian

“To understand this story, it is important to know the People and where they came from and what they went through.” So begins a haunting story that explores with frank and honest words the dark legacy of the residential school system and its impact on individuals, families and communities.

James Nathan and Jake Noland have been best friends for life. After finishing mission school they return to their Gwich’in community in the Northwest Territories. Their lives revolve around bootleggers, the bar, drug abuse and meaningless sex. James and Jake try to dull their painful memories of the school. Each hides a dark secret that fuels his nightmares. Enough alcohol silences the demons for a night; a gun and a single bullet silences demons forever. When a friend commits suicide and a former priest appears on television, the community is shattered. James and Jake confront their childhood abuse and break the silence to begin a journey of healing and rediscovery.

"A terrific book that deals with present day concerns. Its narrative strategy is one that North American readers aren’t going to be used to...But for Native readers, what they’ll hear is some of the overtones of oral literature and oral story telling.”


"Porcupines and China Dolls uses narrative to uncover unrelenting truth that pierces through individual differences to the empathic core of common humanity...Alexie’s insistence on expressing the horror that the Residential School system wrought in First Nations communities is poetically magnificent...[He] is a blacksmith pounding the English language until it can be put to his own purposes."

– Canadian Literature
"Alexie writes in a minimalist, repetitive style consisting mostly of short declarative sentences and rapid-fire dialogues, casting an incantatory, almost numbing spell on the reader."
– Quill & Quire

"Dramatic, raw, merciless, Porcupines and China Dolls is not a book you coast through. It is about our history and what happened to “The People”, as Alexie writes, when the Europeans arrived. The story reaches into the past, but the past is the present."


"An important Native voice from the Northwest Territories. With regards to the place of the Native residential school in Canada's history, this book is an important step in the healing process. Bravo!"