In the Canadian wilderness in the early 1970s, a sudden act of violence leaves a young woman questioning everything she thinks she knows about right, wrong and moral consequence.
After her father’s death, Allie’s mother raised her to believe in a strict system of moral accounting; bad things happened to people for a reason, and if someone does something bad, he or she can expect to suffer dire consequences. Growing up a “river rat” in upstate New York, just this side of the Canadian border, Allie spent her days outside and near the water, so years later, when she and her new husband, Mike, take a job running a remote hunting and fishing camp in Canada, she is fully prepared to leave behind her life in civilized Chicago. One night, out in the wilderness, Mike commits an act of violence in defense of the camp, and Allie fully expects him to pay for his actions, one way or another. To her shock, Mike thinks he will get off scot-free, and when she realizes he might, her life begins to unravel as she is forced to question her closely held conceptions of morality and justice. The characters in this novel are exceedingly well-constructed, imbued with doubt, humor and an overarching humanness that brings them to life on the page. The sense of place is no less remarkably rendered, especially the wilderness settings where most of the novel takes place. The novel is structurally sound, as well—the authors deftly juxtapose the characters’ personal turmoil with the tribulations of the Watergate era during which the story is set, and everything leads to an extremely satisfying and well-rendered conclusion. There are some minor pacing issues, and certain sections—notably Allie’s extended stay with her uncle near the book’s conclusion—seem a little longer than necessary, but these are minor quibbles. This is a beautifully written, expertly constructed novel that satisfies without relying on providing pat answers to the deep questions it raises.
Thoughtful, evocative and rewarding.