Three Day Road is author Joseph Boyden's debut novel, published in 2005 to critical and commercial approval. The novel was inspired in part by the war stories Boyden heard growing up, from both his father (a World War II veteran) and his grandfather (a World War I veteran), as well as the real-life Indigenous Canadian war hero Francis Pegahmagabow. Pegahmagabow, known as “Peggy” by his fellow soldiers, was the most effective sniper of World War I, credited with killing 378 Germans and capturing 300 more. He was the First Nations soldier most highly decorated for bravery in Canadian military history, attaining the rank of sergeant-major and awarded with the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal, and the Victory medal. Boyden has speculated that Pegahmagabow was never awarded a higher award, such as the Distinguished Conduct Medal, because of his First Nation heritage and jealousy among white officers. In addition to inspiring the story of Three Day Road, Pegahmagabow appears in the novel as a minor character.
Boyden has stated that the circular narrative of the book reflects the Cree and Ojibwa concept that life moves in a circle—that the rhythms of life follow the circularity of the seasons and the circular bodies of the sun, moon, and earth. The original drafts of the novel, written in chronological order, followed a more traditionally Western linear narrative.
The novel was a finalist for Canada’s Governor General’s Award for Fiction, and was selected for the Today Show Book Club. It also won the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, the CBA Libris Fiction Book of the Year Award, the Amazon.ca/Books in Canada First Novel Award, and the McNally Robinson Aboriginal Book of the Year Award. Boyden’s second novel, Through Black Spruce, follows the story of Will Bird, the son of Xavier, one of the main characters in Three Day Road. The Orenda, published in 2013, completed the Bird family trilogy.