Motorcycles & Sweetgrass

Motorcycles & Sweetgrass

A Novel

Book - 2010
Average Rating:
Rate this:
Maggie Second is the chief of the community in central Ontario and her mother, Lillian, is dying. When the old woman summonds a handsome white stranger who has come to town, and only known to her, she charges him with a mission to help the people she loves the most, her daugher and grandson, Virgil. Maggie finds herself increasingly enamoured with the handsome young White man, but Virgil, is less than enchanted. With the help of his uncle, Wayne they will try and drive the stranger from the reserve.
Publisher: [Toronto, Ont.] : Alfred A. Knopf Canada : Distributed by Random House of Canada, c2010.
ISBN: 9780307398055
Characteristics: 348 p. ; 21 cm.
Alternative Title: Motorcycles and sweetgrass


From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment

Oct 03, 2017

White Pine Nominee 2012.

When a stranger pulls up astride a 1953 Indian Chief motorcycle to the sleepy Anishnawbe community called Otter Lake everything turns upside down especially when the Reserve's Chief, Maggie, is swept off her feet by the stranger, but her teenage son is suspicious of the stranger and he teams up with his uncle Wayne to drive the stranger from the Reserve.

A little story about Trickster..

BPLNextBestTeens Mar 22, 2013

There was something more than a little unusual about the stranger who roared into Otter Lake Indian Reserve on a vintage era Indian motorcycle one day. No one knew him, his eye colour kept changing and later he was observed arguing with the resident raccoons. But, one elder at Otter Lake knew that he had been summoned. Meet Nanabush, the Ojibway trickster. Canadian author, Drew Hayden Taylor weaves a mature but magical tale that is by turns comic, sorrowful, romantic and political. kw

May 18, 2012

Drew Hayden Taylor is a Canadian author worth following. This book has everything: comedy, social comment, First Nations mythology and wit of a high calibre. Do read it!

WhitePineVP May 04, 2012

Could see the mythology involved especially when “John” was conversing with raccoons; it was a good book, better than some of the others, but again...too much swearing.

SCornelisse Mar 19, 2012

The perfect combination of real-life issues on today's Native Reservations and mythology.

ALlamaNamedEarl Feb 09, 2012

This was the first White Pine nominee book I read and it made me want to read the rest of the White Pine books. I thought the beginning was a bit slow and confusing and there were some slow parts, but once it got going it was really interesting especially the Aboriginal culture, and to see more into the life of a Native reserve. It also made me laugh out loud a few times and I liked how at different times it was from different points of view such as Maggie, and John, not just Virgil.
I would definately recomend this book.

FamousReading Jan 18, 2012

This book was interesting. It was ok.

Kuikirylia Jan 15, 2012

Motorcycles and Sweetgrass was a novel like I've never read before. Different from anything else in both plot and characterization. Though it was very slow at times, and sometimes I had to make myself get through it, it was a very rewarding read. The characters were unique, every one of them different from the generic and clichéd characters, and the plot was as well. I thought that the ending could've been wrapped up a bit better, but, in all, this book was entertaining, with more than a few hilarious laugh-out-loud moments. I would recommend it to anyone who wants to read something diverse from the normal piece of literature.

enidwray Dec 28, 2011

I love this book.  It is smart, sassy, irreverent, and takes no prisoners.  It puts me in mind of some of the best time I’ve spent listening to my radio….  back when The Dead Dog Cafe (inspired by Thomas King’s novel Green Grass Running Water), used to run on the CBC on Saturday mornings.  It was must listen to radio in our household. This book refreshes my love of the native creation story and especially the trickster characters…  be they in the form of Nanabush, Glooscap, the raven, the coyote, or any other.  The trickster stories truly are magical, and they live up to expectations in this novel.  Motorcycles and Sweetgrass is literary humour both at its best, and at its darkest.  Together the residents of the fictional community of Otter Lake, have their world turned upside down.  Through “a series of unfortunate events” Taylor exposes the dark underbelly of contemporary native life, especially the politics of aboriginal land claims, and residential schools. I love the final conversation between John and Virgil.  The last thing John says to Virgil is that “(T)here are no such things as dead ends.  Only people who find dead ends.”  Consider that one for a while!

May 31, 2011

Very interesting read ... i was compelled to finish it just to see what was up with "John Whatever-His-Last-Name-Is". Some parts were very witty like when the old drunkard threw a mushroom at John. Im happy that i found this book. Kudos to the writer!!

View All Comments


Add a Summary

TessaAlex Jan 13, 2012

Recently widowed 35-year-old Maggie is struggling with the responsibilities of being chief of the Otter Lake native reservation while simultaneously raising her aloof teenage son, Virgil. Maggie and Virgil are both reeling from the recent death of Maggie’s mother, Lillian, their last connection to the “old-fashion Indian” way of life.

When John, a mysterious white man, comes into town riding a vintage Indian Chief motorcycle, Maggie falls in love, but Virgil becomes suspicious. Virgil enlists his reclusive Uncle Wayne to discover the truth about John, resulting in a series of antics that would make Nanabush proud. Along the way, John prompts Maggie and Virgil to reconsider their understanding of family, history, and heritage.

Taylor uses John’s presence on the reservation to explore the political, religious, and cultural challenges facing the residents as they struggle to reconcile their Ojibway beliefs and traditions with broader Canadian culture and its modern conveniences. Conflict – both physical and philosophical – and compromise are themes running throughout the book. Those familiar with Taylor’s non-fiction will find his approach here recognizable: beneath the playful and light-hearted humour are complex emotions and thoughtful analyses of difficult subjects.

As Maggie, Virgil, and the rest of Otter Lake deal with the white interloper

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at WPL

To Top