Two Book Reviews: “Lost Canyon” and “Thunderstruck & Other Stories”
| Reviewed by Melanie McNair of Malaprop’s Bookstore |
Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr
What do you get when you mash up Cheryl Strayed’s Wild and James Dickey’s Deliverance? It’s an oversimplification of the plot of Nina Revoyr’s latest novel, Lost Canyon, but it captures the spirit of this gripping outdoor adventure/thriller.Set in the rugged Sierras, a diverse group of four Los Angelinos leave the city behind to test themselves with a three-day hike. Of course, they end up being tested in much more serious ways than just altitude and mileage. Some of the plot is predictable and some of the setup feels a little forced, but the characters are nuanced and the way the book talks about race makes it worthy of more than one read. The three amateur hikers, two men and one woman, take turns narrating as their fitness instructor guide, Tracy, moves them further into unknown territory.
Revoyr unfolds the novel slowly, taking the time to develop a layered and complicated tension, but once the story takes a turn to action it does not let up. Expect to grip the pages, hold your breath, and lose sleep as you move through to find out what their fate will be. When you finish, check out some of Revoyr’s previous novels. She is a writer worth reading.
Thunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCrackenElizabeth McCracken’s collection of stories all center around the same theme: what happens when the bottom drops out, when the worst possible thing happens, when something you could never have foreseen alters the course of your life and you are forever changed. What does it mean to be thunderstruck? Each story asks these questions, each in its strange, sideways way. There is no shortage of magic here, even though the stories stick to psychological realism.
The worlds she creates from these questions, and the characters that inhabit them, will stick with you long after you have finished the book. What makes this book even more remarkable is how wide the spectrum of feelings is: there is sadness and grief; there is humor, some of it dark; but there is so much more. Perhaps one of the reasons these stories ring so true is that McCracken includes the moments of grace that accompany loss, those sometimes-odd miracles of light. She is a writer whose work you give yourself over to, and, when you emerge from the pages again, you feel as if you are wiser than before. Heartfelt, compassionate, expansive, and sublime, this slim volume of nine wholly imagined worlds begs to be read.
Melanie McNair can be reached at Melanie.L.McNair@gmail.com.