Legends of the North Cascades by Jonathan Evison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
As a Washingtonian, born and raised, I am drawn to stories that are told in this area, naturally, and I especially love anything based in the outdoors. Needless to say, I had high hopes for this book, and I was not disappointed.
What a fun escape, in what can be described as an adult version of Hatchet and My Side of the Mountain, and the thrill of survival that can really only be enjoyed from the safety of your comfortable surroundings. Despite the grisly realities described on the pages, it still further inspired me to want to get out and experience more nature, if only for a short hike or a weekend camping trip with a stocked cooler and a good book.
Legends touches on so many talking points, with frank discussions about grief, war, politics, PTSD, all written in a way that is readable and relatable and you will feel every range of emotion, dread, hope, frustration, wonder. The relationship between Bella and Dave is tenuous and engaging, their bond realistic yet enviable. Same could be said with the fascinating parallel story that takes place with N’ka and S’tka, their prehistoric adventure played out in humor and horror. Both stories leading to an exodus, an escape, or search for a better life.
As the story progresses, you want to root for Dave, punch your fist in the air in solidarity against the toxicity of the everyday climate with social media, politics, war, etc., but eventually that alliance begins to crumble and you want to snap your fingers in his face and wake him up from this delusion that living in a cave on the side of a mountain in the dead of winter is natural, even when you know the origins of the first peoples, as spelled out in the story of S’tka and U’ku’let. You want to hate his brother and the park ranger and the social worker, but you also realize that they aren’t the bad guys, no one is the “bad guy”, as far as the ones “interviewed” and/or featured in this book.
Despite the grim landscape, there are plenty of pockets of hope, well-placed humor, and moments of levity that prevent you from needing a break from the depth and darkness that could consume you otherwise while reading through some of the bleaker passages. However, it does not take away from the seriousness of the issues discussed.
Easily one of my favorite books this year, I cannot recommend this book enough and I am excited to read more from Jonathan in the future.
An advanced copy of this book was sent to me by the publisher. The opinions are my own.
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