My Rating: 9/10
Dave Cartwright has had enough. After three tours in Iraq he has come home to Vigilante Falls in Washington State only to find that he feels incapable of connecting to the people and the place that once defined him. Most days, his love for his seven-year-old daughter, Bella, is the only thing keeping him going. When tragedy strikes, Dave makes a dramatic decision: he will take Bella to live in a cave in the wilderness of the North Cascades.
So begins a compelling adventure, a story of a father and daughter attempting to cope with a breathtaking but harsh environment. Once they are settled in the cave, Bella retreats into a different world, that of a mother and son who had lived in that same space, but thousands of years before, at the end of last Ice Age. As the two dramas begin to merge, a timeless odyssey unfolds, both as a meditation on the perils of isolation and an exploration of humans’ indelible struggle to survive.
Perfect for readers of Peter Heller’s novels or Kristin Hannah’s The Great Alone, Legends of the North Cascades is Jonathan Evison’s return to sweeping, multicharacter narratives like his New York Times bestseller West of Here and is an immensely satisfying read.
“Of all the perils, and pitfalls you’ve foisted upon us, Great Provider, none is equal to the thoughtless cruelty of man. For only man among all the beasts worked so hard to cultivate the worst of his nature.”
It’s Blog Tour Day for Legends of the North Cascades by Jonathan Evison and I am thrilled to share this book with everyone. Full honesty; I have had some stuff in my personal life lately that has made it hard for me to read everything I’ve been wanting to read or have committed to. That, coupled with Michigan finally hitting the summer stride and reading just hasn’t been happening. BUT, as soon as I sat down with this book and was able to get myself in the reading mode, I devoured it in one sitting and just a few hours. It’s so completely worth the binge.
Legends of the North Cascades straddles multiple timelines. We focus on Dave, a man reeling from PTSD from being an American military man. To add insult to injury, his wife dies and he’s left to raise his daughter in a world he doesn’t really agree with. He decides to pack up Bella to live in the remote wilderness of the North Cascades. They bunker down in a cave and are happy for a time. The isolation is freeing but also crippling on Dave’s already fragile mental state, though he doesn’t realize this. Dave is one of those people who is extremely intelligent and talented, but has been harmed by society’s handling of veterans. He also has a jaded outlook on the military and their mission. He’s a gentle man who was forced to do brutal, life-altering things, only to come home and be burdened by debt and the constricts of a “civilized” society. He wants to feel human again, down to the most simple meaning of it. He wants to live off the land quietly and honestly, away from prying eyes and gossiping cruelty.
“‘You can’t own a person,’ she said.
‘What do you think a slave is?’ he said.
‘There’s no more slaves,’ she said. ‘Miss Martine told us they stopped slavery a long time ago. In the eighteen-hundreds.’
‘Of a certain kind,’ he said. ‘But there’s different ways of enslaving people.’
‘Well, like rules that don’t make sense, rules that say a person can’t live where a person wants. There’re laws that aren’t fair, laws that say certain people can’t do certain things. And debt, debt is a kind of slavery; its’ kind of like a chain that keeps people tied to a life they can’t afford.'”
We are able to making striking comparisons of Dave and Bella’s journey to the backdrop story told of a mother and son from the Ice Age. The cave people from the Ice Age can’t rely on going into their local town for supplies or help when injured or looking for food and their climate is much harsher than what Dave and Bella experience, but both sets have the same sense of isolation that can drive a person to desperation. They both experience what it is like to be ostracized from the people they come by. People claim to want to help Bella, but they are willing to overlook the distress that her dad is feeling. Both sets of families also have to learn when to accept help from a offered hand.
This is simply a gorgeously told story. It’s fast paced while being quiet and beautiful. Your heart will clench at the human feeling described here. The loneliness and indecision, the way that we hold trauma in our heart and our mind. The sheer force of will displayed by these characters will crack open a well of emotion within you. This is one of those books that just needs to be experienced, I can’t accurately explain the depth of this novel. A huge thanks to Algonquin for allowing me to take part in this. You can purchased this book on June 8th. You may also head over to my Instagram that day for a giveaway of a finished hardback copy of The Legends of the North Cascades.
“For the first time, Bella comprehended with aching clarity the ultimate estrangement of being human. She began to weep, not for herself, but for all of humanity.”