Long-separated college loves reunite in the Canadian Boundary Waters.
Gabe Pender has an attitude problem. Let go from his longtime job at a publishing company, he punches his boss in the gut. His wife has left him, and his daughter is estranged. At 60, he’s a curmudgeon: when he passes some drunken partiers, he thinks, “it would be better to die than spend time with assholes like that.” And his time in the Vietnam War still casts a long shadow across his life, not only in the form of his temper, but also in the form of a woman. Annette Blain, his college sweetheart, left for Canada as a conscientious objector to the war just as Pender was heading over to serve. Now, 40 years later, Pender, an expert canoeist, agrees to meet Annette—coincidentally, also an expert canoeist—for a paddling trip across Quetico Provincial Park in Canada. As Pender winds his way toward Annette through the Boundary Waters, he wonders whether Annette will be another one of his failures or if this will be a welcome renewal of a relationship he’s never quite been able to let go of. Debut novelist Landers clearly knows and loves the Boundary Waters, and he admirably captures the drama and beauty of the wild landscape. Pender, though, is rather insufferable company for the duration and is made even more so by the fact that his self-regard seems to grow with each condescending thought he has about all the people who’ve ruined the world—which is to say, everyone. Unlikable characters can make great fiction, but the book’s other characters repeatedly describing Pender in sincerely glowing terms could make readers wonder if we’re missing something or if Landers is.
A wilderness adventure/romance that might have readers rooting for a capsize.