April Raintree was born daughter to Metis parents in Winnipeg in 1955. We are first introduced to April’s life when she is six years old. April Raintree describes her father, Henry as being” a little of this, a little of that and a whole lot of Indian” and describes her mom, Alice as “part Irish and part Ojibway” with Cheryl inheriting their father’s brown skin and brown eyes and April having pale skin. Over the course of the first chapter we learn that April and her sister who is eighteen months younger than her have been witnessing their parents having a “medicine problem”.
This medicine is soon to be realized as alcohol, a common theme throughout the book. April and Cheryl have observed first handedly when it was apparent that their mother started to gain weight one year and went to the hospital coming home with a baby. Baby Anna unfortunately was very sick causing child services taking April and Cheryl out of the family home to be placed in Catholic foster care. Unfortunately the two girls are placed in different foster homes and but fortunately both treated very respectfully. Sadly April’s foster parents inform her that Mrs. Dion is ill meaning April must relocate foster homes.
When April gets to her new foster home, the DeRosiers, she is greeted by the families children Ricky and Maggie who are very rude to April calling her a half breed a forcing her to do all the house work. This is another common theme throughout the book which is racism or discrimination against the native heritage. April seems to be very aggrieved about being Metis and wishes she was fully white whilst Cheryl is clearly satisfied and proud to be a native even writing history essays about the Metis. April finds out in this chapter that her parents were never sick and were alcoholics but does not reveal this to Cheryl.
Cheryl as a surprise then switches homes to live with April and the DeRosiers which is very frustrating to April after what she is going through at the home. April and Cheryl get very good marks in school which is the only thing in which April and Cheryl can hold above Maggie and Ricky. Maggie and Ricky at one point also try to harm Cheryl by luring her into a pin with a bull in it. The bull eventually feels threatened and tries to attack Cheryl but her dog surprisingly distracts the bull long enough for her to get a ay. When April tries to stand up for Cheryl she no doubt gets shut down by Mrs.
DeRosier but unexpectedly Mr. DeRosier stands up for the girls backing up what was indeed true. Cheryl had also got herself in to trouble in this chapter though from standing up for Metis people in one of the books they were reading at school resulting in a visit to the principal’s office getting strapped and all of her hair being cut off by Mrs. DeRosiers. The girls’ social worker one day comes for a visit. April had assumed that the social worker was coming to take away Cheryl which ended in the girls attempting to run away.
Eventually after one night they were found by police and had a stern speaking with their social worker about how what the girls were doing now would lead the girls into prostitution, theft and pregnancy. This event is one of the most evident illustration of racism which also is a common occurrence throughout the book. In chapter five Maggie and Ricky spread a rumour about April being “fondled”, losing all of her friends. I perceived that the reason she lost all of her friends to that rumour might have been because she is First Nations which unfortunately could be true because of the white superiority in that era.
April is confronted by the guidance counselor implying that these rumours are true without full knowledge. For the duration of this April and Cheryl continue to send letters back and forth with Cheryl sending April history papers she has wrote about First Nations. Mrs. DeRosier eventually stopped giving the mail that Cheryl would send to April to April and would not send out any of April’s letters to Cheryl. April eventually relied on her former friend Jennifer to send and receive mail for April. Chapter six comes around and April has finally realized the perfect way to leave the DeRosiers.
She writes an essay for the Christmas story using real experiences that have happened to her to reveal what has been happening. Fortunately the teachers believe her and April is transferred to a new school to complete her school year. Cheryl in the meantime is living with a family named the Steindalls and is treated with respect. Whilst April is at her new school, St. Bernadette’s Academy, she told a lie saying that her parents had died in a plane crash and were no longer alive. From my perspective I think that this could be consequential from being white washed.
This also can be seen as April ashamed of her First Nation heritage. At the end of chapter seven April moves into her own apartment in Winnipeg and has become a secretary at a firm after being free of the fostering system. Cheryl goes to the University of Winnipeg to become a social worker. April goes on the hunt for her parents in the slums but promptly gives up after seeing the living conditions deciding it was better not to look for them. A business partner by the name of Bob Radcliff one day shows up at the firm. He is very wealthy and seems like he is everything April wanted.
After a very short time of knowing each other they get married. When Bob takes April back to his home to move in Toronto she is astounded to find out how much wealth Bob has actually attained. With this April has now reached her ultimate goal of being “white” (having wealth and social status etc. ) continuing to look down on her Metis heritage. Cheryl comes to visit April at one point just discovering how much the sisters have drifted. Before Cheryl leaves Toronto April gives Cheryl their parents addresses she has to request of Cheryl but not revealing that their parents are alcoholics.
When Cheryl leaves April, April is in awe of Cheryl how she “has a point of living”. April discovers in this chapter that Bob is having an affair with her best friend Heather. April comes to the conclusion that the reason why Bob had married her in the first place was to prove his mother wrong. Bob’s mother at also said very seemingly harmful things to April but had a racist undertone. At the end of the chapter April gets a phone call from the Health Sciences Centre in Winnipeg stating that Cheryl is in the hospital. Immediately April flies back to Winnipeg to be by her sister’s side.
When April gets to Winnipeg the doctors tell her that Cheryl was under the influence of alcohol and got hypothermia. April is very suprised by this and can not believe that Cheryl would drink any liquor at all but still stands by her side. After all this news she finds out that her sister has also quit school and has been living with someone who goes by the name of Mark for the last two years. When Cheryl comes back to consciousness she tells April that she no longer wants to live with Mark and asks April to get her things for her.
April agrees and goes to Cheryls home but on her way into the house gets stopped by men who “kidnap” her and rape her in the back of the car. She manages to get to a farmhouse in the surrounding area and calls the police who then take her to the hospital to get checked out. From the way April reacts when Cheryl tries to talk to her about the rape I believe that April might have blamed Cheryl for the rape but never admits to these feelings. When April’s divorce is settled her and Cheryl decide to buy a house with the money from the settlement.
April and Cheryl move into a new home. Since April moved in with Cheryl she notices that she continues to have a problem with alcohol. Throughout April’s rape trial one of the men testifies that Cheryl was a well known prostitute in the area and the rapist mistook April as Cheryl this is extremely appalled that she was a prostitute. After the trial Cheryl distant from April and starts to show up less and less around the house. When she does show up at home she is commonly drunk but otherwise is rarely seen by April.
One visit that stands out the most is when Cheryl comes home very intoxicated but has a conversation with April about how she had found their father and he was a drunk who lived in the slums. She also reveals in this time that their mother has committed suicide many years ago by jumping off the Louise Bridge. This comes after Cheryl has almost drank a whole bottle of whiskey which April then decides to dump the rest down the drain resulting in Cheryl slapping her and leaving the house saying “You’ll be sorry you did that”. After this night Cheryl is not heard from for several weeks and does not return home.
Desperately April attempts for several weeks to locate Cheryl but no avail can not find her. One night many weeks later April gets a phone call from Cheryl’s friend Nancy stating that Cheryl has been living with her and she had left very suddenly and Nancy was very concerned that she might do something bad. April calls the police but suddenly it occurs to April to go to the Louise Bridge as she thought Cheryl might try to commit suicide off the bridge. April drives to the bridge to find just five minutes ago a women had just jumped committing suicide who soon turns out to indeed be Cheryl.
After Cheryl’s death April goes home and reads her sisters most current journal which reveal to what extent Cheryl’s alcoholism had affected her everyday life. Throughout the journal near the end we find out that Cheryl actually had a son who she had named after their father. Throughout the book I think that the greatest tones throughout the writing were alcoholism, discrimination, and being feelings of being ashamed of your heritage. April throughout the book had shown signs that she was very ashamed of her Metis background and had attempted to act white throughout the book.
In my personal opinion I think April was ashamed of her Metis background until after Cheryl’s death when she has said she would like alcohol to stop hurting “our” people and taking the blood of “our” people which is why the fabric of my book is red. When she had said our people I had originally thought she was talking about just her family but had letter came to the conclusion she was talking about Metis people. I truly believe that when she had said our that she had come to part with her background and was finally seeing herself as part of the Metis heritage.
Alcoholism is also very present throughout the book. Consistently it is being brought up that there were always drunk Indians on Main Street. Part of the reason why I think that liquor was such a large part of the book was because of the common assumption that all aboriginals are drunks or do drugs. This is the common stereotype which April seemed to try and avoid when she pretended that she was white. April when she was younger had also thought that her parents were just taking medicine but as she grew up she had realized her parents were alcoholics and prioritized alcohol over their own children.
I can relate to April in this sense because in my life I have faced similar consequences in seeing what alcohol can do to a family if it is not used in moderation. I think this is where I felt I could connect with April the most was with the constant alcohol that was around her especially having native background where people automatically assume you are an alcoholic if you have aboriginal descent and buy the medicine with welfare money from the government. I could imagine how this would affect your everyday life and would affect your perspective on the people around you on an everyday basis.
I cannot though connect with April on the theme of racism though as I have never been on the other end of racism but it makes me analyze more carefully what I am saying to others as things I say are never intended on being racist but sometimes might come across differently from a different view point. Overall I would strongly encourage other to read this book which can provide some insight into what the natives did and still go through with society. This is a very powerful and effectively reading that allows the reader to more closely examine the book and with background knowledge can come to very strong analyzes of the book.