Books·First Look

Waubgeshig Rice continues his Anishinaabe-inspired vision for the future with novel Moon of the Turning Leaves

The Anishinaabe writer is back the sequel to the hit novel Moon of the Crusted Snow. Moon of the Turning Leaves will be published on Oct. 10, 2023. Read an excerpt now!

Moon of the Turning Leaves will be published on Oct. 10. Read an excerpt now!

Close up portrait of a man with long dark hair wearing a light blue shirt with a dark grey jacket over it and standing in front of a tree
Waubgeshig Rice is an Anishinaabe author, journalist and radio host. (Shilo Adamson )

Waubgeshig Rice is back with a new book. Moon of the Turning Leaves, the much anticipated sequel to his 2018 post-apocalyptic novel Moon of the Crusted Snow, will be published this fall.

Moon of the Crusted Snow told a dystopian story about a northern Anishinaabe community facing dwindling resources and the collapse of society from an Indigenous perspective. The bestselling book was on the Canada Reads 2023 longlist.

Moon of the Turning Leaves takes place 10 years after the events of the first novel and depicts an epic journey to a forgotten homeland. 

Book cover is a painting of a forest with one overturned tree with the book title and author name written in white letters
Moon of the Turning Leaves is a novel by Waubgeshig Rice. (Random House Canada)

Rice is an Anishinaabe author and journalist originally from Wasauksing First Nation. He is also the author of the short story collection Midnight Sweatlodge and the novel Legacy. He used to be the host of CBC Radio's Up North.

"I wrote Moon of the Turning Leaves because the readers of Moon of the Crusted Snow wanted a sequel. I originally hadn't thought of exploring that world beyond the first story until the people who read it enthusiastically encouraged me to. That encouragement really was one of the greatest gifts I've ever received as a writer," Rice told CBC Books.

"It gave me the opportunity to reconnect with the characters I'd grown to love many years ago. I was thrilled to be able to imagine their situation and surroundings once again, and determine a new set of stakes for them. It was also a chance to speculate on what the future could hold for this community — and more broadly, my people the Anishinaabek — more than a decade after the end of society as we know it. In that sense, the themes of renewal and love for the land continue," he added.

But reading Moon of the Crusted Snow isn't a requirement to understand Moon of the Turning Leaves, according to Rice. 

"The second novel is meant to stand alone and both engage and inform. At the same time, I feel I owe the readers of the original story a good sequel that they deserve. Because it's speculative fiction and it's my own imagining of the world ten years after the end of the first book, it may not exactly align with what some readers imagined," said Rice.

Moon of the Turning Leaves will be available on Oct. 10, 2023. 

Read an excerpt from the novel below.


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.

It had been years since most of them had seen their old houses and the buildings in which they once worked, lived and played.

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.

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.

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.

As expected, the service road along the hydro lines that led south was completely grown over and unreliable for passage or guidance.

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.


Adapted from Moon of the Turning Leaves by Waubgeshig Rice, published by Random House Canada. Copyright © 2023 Waubgeshig Rice. Reprinted courtesy of Random House Canada. All rights reserved.

Corrections

  • This post has been updated to reflect the correct book release date.
    Apr 25, 2023 1:08 PM ET

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