- Hardcover, 352 pages
- Expected publication: June 8th 2021 by Algonquin Books
- ISBN: 1643750100
- Retail $26.95
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Dave Cartwright is already living on the edge, with a blue-collar job he hates that barely pays the bills, a house on the verge of foreclosure, a failing marriage, and the recurring memories of three tours in Iraq. His only bright spot is his sometimes too-wise daughter, Bella, who sees and understands much beyond her years. When the unthinkable occurs, Dave makes a seemingly over-the-top decision to move with Bella to a cave in the wilderness. As they embark on this compelling and challenging backcountry adventure, Bella’s reality takes an unforeseen turn, retreating into the ancient world of a mother and son who lived in the cave thousands of years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. What unfolds amidst the struggle to survive is a meditation on both the perils of isolation and the human need for connection.
The mountains were a place to admire and respect from afar, to pass through furtively and give thanks for safe passing. They were not to be trusted, these mountains. Especially not in winter, when they hid their treasures, and withheld their bounty. The North Cascades could bury you in a heartbeat, they could lose you, they could play tricks on your mind. The mountains were not a place to go for answers.
The Legends of the North Cascades is written from multiple perspectives across dual timelines. One being set during the Ice Age and the other in the present. The two storylines converge on each other not just in the setting, but also with the themes of isolation, enduring and the making of legends.
The pacing of the book was rather fast as it is written in short chapters, many of which read like interviews from the townsfolk that Dave and Bella have left behind. For some he is a madman. For others he will forever be a hero.
I found Dave to be a likeable character who loved his daughter wholeheartedly. He wanted the best for her but was too proud and stubborn to seek help even when he knew his demons were getting the best of him. Bella was perhaps my favorite character. She is full of heart and spirit. Curious and full of imagination, she is the brightest star in this book.
There were points in the dialogue where I felt the book would have benefitted from having a sensitivity reader. After authorities show interest in their living situation, Dave likens laws to slavery. As a descendant of slaves I know I am not the only one who would find fault with this sentiment. Following a law or a rule, no matter how heavy-handed or inane, is not the same as being enslaved. It just isn’t. And to try to diminish it like that or try to conflate your anger at the system or your unwillingness to follow the rules with being enslaved never works. At another time S’tka talks about outliving her purpose: “that’s all the Great Provider had in mind when he created a woman — to carry men. Carry them in their wombs, and on their backs, and in their hearts, to carry their burdens, and bear their disappointments until such time that a man no longer needs them.” In my opinion neither of these statements were necessary to move the narrative along.
Overall, the writing was beautiful. I could just about turn to any page and find sentences that I could read over and over again. I was captivated by Dave and Bella’s story and was invested in her outcome.
The whole rickety bulwark of Dave’s defenses were crushed to splinter beneath the realization that . . . he still could not guard Bella from grief or harm, any more than he could deprive her of love and meaningful connection. Bereaved, we are but orphans, dispossessed, impoverished in our solitude. Our only buffer against the cold, cruel world was one another.
Meet the Author
Jonathan Evison is the New York Times bestselling author of the novels All About Lulu, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, West of Here, Lawn Boy, This Is Your Life, Harriet Chance! and Legends of the North Cascades.
In his teens, Evison was the founding member and frontman of the Seattle punk band March of Crimes, which included future members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.
Born in San Jose, California, he now lives on an island in Western Washington with his wife and family.