In Turner’s debut novel, a young man traveling through Alaska meets a mysterious figure in the wilderness who instructs him on the true nature of wisdom.
Gabriel is a young college student looking for adventure. While backpacking with friends in Alaska and hoping to earn money working on the new pipeline, Gabriel goes for a solitary moonlight walk and encounters a flute-playing mountain man. This strange, elderly man has a wolf and a raven as companions. Although he looks shaggy and scraggly, he turns out to be highly cultured. His cabin, which appears to be bigger inside than out, has a good library, Persian carpets and a baby grand piano. He and Gabriel have a wide-ranging conversation in which Gabriel learns, among other things, to use strength in service to others, to not mistake humility for weakness, to question one’s own truths and to seek wisdom. Turner, who has lived in Alaska for 30 years, writes vivid and evocative descriptions of nature: “Rough-hewn mountains rose to the sky all around, and the forests carpeted them as far up as they could before losing breath and the ability to climb any higher.” Once Gabriel meets the wizard, however, the novel’s focus turns to the old man’s teachings, conducted in a single overnight conversation. “I had always enjoyed campfire philosophy and mountaintop metaphysics,” says Gabriel, and readers who feel similarly will enjoy this book. Gabriel learns about the Noble Arts (including language, listening, patience, imagination, influence, finance and giving) and the two Great Powers of the Spirit (the abilities to love and create). Although this information is imparted with liveliness and humor, some readers may find much of it familiar—a conglomeration of well-known ideas from literature, self-help books, New Age philosophy, psychology and other tales of shamanic encounters.
A warmhearted, if not groundbreaking, work about the transmission of wisdom.