Cibou: A NovelA fictional story with a beautiful feel set in a 17th–century Mi’kmaq community in eastern Canada – fresh and sometimes humorous.
Cibou is set in a fictional 17th-century Mi’kmaq community on the East Coast of what is now Canada. The protagonist, a young Mi’kmaq woman named Mouse, gets to know two French brothers: Jesuit missionary Antoine Daniel and his sea-captain brother, Charles.
Mouse’s observations of the newcomers filter through her own understanding, giving readers a fresh and sometimes humorous look at the European culture of the time, which in ways like materialism more closely resembles our own.
We see vignettes of daily Mi’kmaq life, such as the making of maple syrup at the winter camp, as well as poignant scenes depicting a sudden epidemic and an attack by a hostile tribe.
We also see how the French-English hostilities and the introductions of guns and liquor sow the seeds of change.
The narrative has a beautiful feel, matching the storytelling that Mouse’s people hold in such high regard. Many of the fireside stories speak of the being they call the Creator, Kluskap. As Father Antoine gains the group’s acceptance, he shares stories of his God, and it’s fascinating to read how he shapes familiar Bible stories in ways relevant to his hearers.
This is not the novel’s main focus but it is a fine example of a missionary building connections in a different environment.
It makes a welcome change to see a Christian – and a missionary at that – portrayed with understanding and sensitivity in a mainstream novel.
Protestant readers today will have some differences with the 17th-century Roman Catholic doctrine, but Father Antoine is a beautiful example of a man who lives his faith. The real Antoine was martyred in Huronia (in Central Ontario) and is venerated as St. Anthony Daniel.
Author Susan Young de Biagi is from Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, and now lives in Powell River, British Columbia. Cibou is her first novel.
Originally published in Faith Today, March/April 2009.
Used with permission. Copyright © 2009 Christianity.ca.