A pilot and his three passengers veer off their flight path and crash in a remote Canadian wilderness in this debut novel of survival.
Former bush pilot Jackson’s debut novel authentically captures the beauty and dangers of an area northwest of Ontario’s Thunder Bay, near the Manitoba border. It’s a region only accessible by airplane, such as the Cessna 206 floatplane that Fred Henderson attempts to pilot from the city of Kenora to Trout Lake Lodge. With him are First Nations fishing guide George White, lodge guest Dr. Michael Cleveland, and self-proclaimed “not bad for thirty-one” Ruth Denver, who’s returning to work at the lodge, which is owned by her parents. But turbulence and a snapped throttle cable bring the plane down, and an attempt to take off again results in a second, more disastrous crash and a broken leg for Fred. In addition to the fact that the downed plane is packed with emergency gear and tools, the foursome is fortunate in that George is a master fisherman and hunter and Fred is a capable builder. But Michael, nicknamed “Doc,” is known as “a bit of a pill” with no practical skills, and, contrary to what the others assumed, he isn’t a medical doctor who can assist with Fred’s broken leg; he’s actually a university professor with a Ph.D. in chemistry. But over the course of his time in the wilderness, he’s transformed into a badass hunter-gatherer. Further tense situations offer questionable outcomes for him and other characters. Overall, the dialogue is believable, especially between Fred and Ruth, who have crushes on each other and share their romantic back stories. Stereotypically, Ruth is a good cook and seamstress; however, she’s imaginative enough to pair cubed moose meat with wild cranberries and sufficiently skilled to use deer sinew as thread to sew a hare fur parka. Frustrating as it is when potential rescue pilots fail to find the foursome over a long stretch of time, it’s a pleasure to discover how the group bonds and becomes increasingly inventive. But at least 10 times the need for toilet paper is mentioned—and that’s about nine times too many.
A well-told story of endurance, creativity, and tenacity.