Viles tells the story of a couple caught in the middle of a Bigfoot controversy in this debut novel.
In the shadow of Mount St. Helens, widower and self-proclaimed “Bigfoot agnostic” Jake Holly is taking shelter from the rain in the hollow of a Douglas fir when he hears the impossible: two sasquatches lying together. When they discover Jake’s proximity, he reflexively fires his rifle toward them, killing the female and sending the male fleeing, wounded, into the forest. Immediately remorseful, Jake and his horse drag the dead sasquatch back to the road to keep it from scavengers, where Jake’s new girlfriend, Jess O’Reilly, picks them up. Jake and Jess take the body to a friend’s funeral home in Aurora, Washington, and try to figure out how to proceed; a local boy sees them unload the creature and posts about it online. Soon reporters are descending on Aurora; the president of the United States is on the phone; and Jake is arrested for murder on the order of Jess’ father, the district attorney, who disapproves of Jake dating his daughter. Caught up in a cyclone of grief, anxiety, and moral uncertainty, Jake must comport himself in a way that will secure his own freedom, preserve the sasquatch species, and also save his relationship with Jess. Viles writes in a crisp, balanced prose that’s laden with wonderful details, as when he describes the murdered Bigfoot: “She didn’t look like a wild animal, dirt-caked and disheveled from a hard life outdoors, but brought to mind a homely, hardworking mother of six from a mud-puddled trailer park somewhere in the backcountry.” The author attempts to make the story as believable as possible, including historical digressions that explain how a population of sasquatches evolved and survived to the present day. In the end, however, his story is about the ways that people react to the unexpected in their own lives and in the world at large. Although Jake and Jess, as characters, might have benefited from a bit more complexity, they’re generally well drawn, and the plot is satisfying, overall.
An earnest, thoughtful story about an unplanned discovery.