A many-layered story of lost loves and covered-up crimes, set against the backdrop of the Pennsylvania woods.
Park ranger Callie Major doesn’t expect to encounter someone from her past when she comes across an illicit campsite, but the camp’s resident is Newton Denman, Callie’s one-time best friend. The two haven’t seen each other since adolescence, but they reconnect as it becomes clear that Newton is actually hiding out in the woods. As the narrative moves between the two characters, more is revealed about why Newton is on the run—he’s the primary suspect in a murder he had nothing to do with—and why Callie returned to the mountain where she lived as a young child. Over the course of several months, Callie and Newton begin a tentative affair that is shaped by their infrequent meetings and the presence of a large black bear in the park. Newton, the youngest in a family of hunters, is intent on tracking the bear, while Callie feels a more spiritual connection to it, driven in part by her Native American ancestry. At the same time, Callie is pregnant, somehow further connecting her to the bear, and has long since ended her relationship with the child’s father, a fellow ranger. The book moves back and forth between the characters in the park and those in Callie and Newton’s former hometown, including Newton’s mother and brothers, and Pete Myrick, the police officer investigating the murder, who has his own history with Callie. The novel also jumps in time from the present to the recent past and throughout Callie’s and Newton’s childhoods; some narrative transitions work better than others. The setting is well-developed, however, presenting a detailed picture of rural Pennsylvania.
Multiple plotlines converge in this complex, satisfying nature story.