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New York Times Reviews “The Berry Pickers”

‘The Berry Pickers’ Is a Harrowing Tale of Indigenous Family Separation

In Amanda Peters’s debut novel, a 4-year-old Mi’kmaw girl disappears one summer, prompting a lifelong saga of mystery and tragedy.

By Eric Nguyen

THE BERRY PICKERS, by Amanda Peters

It is 1962 and a Mi’kmaw family crosses from Nova Scotia into Maine to harvest berries as migrant workers. Once they arrive, everything falls into a summer rhythm, but one afternoon, the family’s youngest, 4-year-old Ruthie, disappears. Her brother Joe is the last to see her, which will haunt him for the rest of his life. As he grows up, more tragedies befall him: After witnessing the murder of his brother, he emotionally spirals, feeling that he is bad luck to his family, which leads him first to the bottle, then to an accident that disables him and to an act of violence that causes him to leave the life he knows behind.

Twinned with Joe’s story is Norma’s. Norma is a young girl with a white family, also growing up in the ’60s, but throughout her life, she has “always known that something was out of place.” Her father is aloof while her mother is overprotective, pathologically so. “Even as I got older and started to make my own way in the world,” Norma says, “my mother tried to keep me close, pulling on that invisible chain that brought me back into her space whenever I tried to occupy my own.” The key to becoming her own woman, she feels, lies in her past, which her family refuses to recall. She takes it upon herself to find it. Read the full review at the New York Times.

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