Sufferance by Thomas King is one of our school’s considerations for the grade nine de-streamed classroom. These are my thoughts on whether or not we should include this book in our book club selection. To learn more about our Inclusive Classroom Library Project, please click here.
A Brief Plot Outline
Jeremiah Camp can make predictions based on a given set of patterns. At some point in his past, he saw something so disturbing that he no longer speaks. To anyone. Ever.
So, he ran away and hid from the world.
Unfortunately, Ash Locken needs Jeremiah’s unique skill, so she does what every good billionaire would do: find him and force him to work for her. She needs a prediction based on a list of names Jeremiah had produced for her father. Everyone on the list is dying off quickly!
However, the book’s plot is secondary to the central message of power and privilege. The novel is an intense satire about the consequences of inequality.
I’ve been a fan of Thomas King’s work since Dead Dog Café aired on CBC Radio in the 1990s. I’m pretty sure that King even references the show in Sufferance when he says there was a show on CBC that gave out Indian names, but it was canceled. I’m not 100% sure, but I think I seem to remember that episode.
Bromance aside, the question is, is this book appropriate for a de-streamed grade nine English class?
Well, the book might move a little slow for a fifteen-year-old. There isn’t much action. Events that could be more exciting in the novel are toned down, reflecting how real life works as opposed to some fantasized version of excitement. While I don’t think our book selections need to be high-action, I’m unsure if Sufferance will keep a teen’s attention.
The text will be difficult for many readers because it requires some background knowledge of residential governments, relationships between reservations and nearby towns, and how power and privilege impact social equality.
Who Will Like This?
Astute readers willing to do additional research will find the book insightful and gain an appreciation for Thomas King as an author. There are so many learning opportunities for students willing to do extra work that it is hard to ignore this novel.
This novel will be lost on struggling or reluctant readers. Even average grade nine readers may find this too challenging, especially since it is a book club book. Students will not get the direct instruction needed to get through the more complex aspects of the book.
I’ll have to think this one over a little more and see how it fits in with the other books. Certainly, one of our selections will be geared toward more advanced readers. I hope that Sufferance will be that novel, but I won’t know until I’ve read through all the books.