Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor: Review

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass by Drew Hayden Taylor was a pleasant surprise. I knew very little about it when I started reading it. Once I sat down with it, I didn't want to put it away.

Maggie Second is a busy lady. After the death of her husband three years ago, she took over as chief of Otter Lake. It's a thankless job juggling the politics of both the Native and White people. The reclamation of 300 acres of woodland is adding more paperwork and headaches to her job. She barely has time for her dying mother and her teenaged son let alone herself. Then a mysterious stranger shows up the day her mother dies. A tall handsome white stranger on an 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle and he only has eyes for her.

Maggie's son Virgil is less than impressed by the stranger who goes by the name 'John.' Sure, he's good looking (all the women say so) and charming but there is something not quite right about him. First, he never gives anyone the same last name, then there's the moonlight dancing and those strange eyes. Virgil decides to enlist the help of his crazy Uncle Wayne to find out who this guy really is.

John has come back to Otter Lake to say goodbye to an old friend and cause a bit of mischief while he's there. Maggie has potential if it wasn't for that darn kid. And those raccoons are a pain; they know how to hold a grudge.

What a hoot! I love supernatural beings in novels. They are egocentric egomaniacs with little regard for humans' feelings. They have free reign to do whatever they please and act in ways humans can't, even in fictional stories. It makes for fun times. I don't think it's much of a spoiler to say 'John' is not a person like everyone else. He charmed the socks off me. He isn't malicious; he just wants to have some fun.

John isn't the only interesting character in the book. Maggie is a hard-working single mom who could use some magic in her life. She's no pushover though. John might have learned a lot in all his time on the planet but he could use a few lessons on dealing with modern women. Virgil is a kid who, as Maggie puts it, "needs a kick in the pants." He's had a hard go and is lacking in ambition. John's arrival provides some motivation, if nothing else. I loved the relationship between him and his mom. Awww, he loves his mom!

Mr Taylor could have been heavy handed with the serious issues facing this Native community. There are plenty of scars left from the past but he handles it in a funny way. I guess the idea is if you don't laugh, you'll cry.

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass is clever and often silly, a great combo. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Highly recommended.

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass was given to me by Random House Canada as part of their 2010 New Face of Fiction series.

Fun Fact: Drew Hayden Taylor also wrote The Night Wanderer, a teenage vampire story. Take that Edward!


  1. I'm very curious about John after your review! Sounds like a great book!

  2. Oh, I'm just itching to read this one. I recently heard an interview with Shelagh Rogers on "The Next Chapter" and now I really really want to. His other works sound intriguing as well.


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