The bestselling author of The Horse Whisperer (1995) returns to the rugged American West for this story of a damaged family’s eventual redemption.
The surface of Evans’s latest is shaped as a mystery. Two skiers on the back trails in Montana find a body encased in ice, and it doesn’t take long for the authorities to identify her as Abbie Cooper, wanted for eco-terrorism and murder. Her parents come to claim her body: Ben from Santa Fe, where he lives with his lover Eve, Sarah from the now-empty family home in Long Island. Sarah’s cruel accusation that Ben is responsible for Abbie’s death spins the story back to when they were a happy family . . . or at least had the appearance of one. Ben was studying architecture and Sarah was in college when they met. They romanced in the usual way, married, had Abbie and Josh and moved to the ’burbs. But the façade of marital harmony shatters on Ben’s 46th birthday at the Divide, a Montana dude ranch, where he meets Eve. Everything that’s wrong with Ben and Sarah (a lot) finally becomes too much to bear. Abbie takes her parents’ split badly, and her youthful enthusiasm for saving the planet at the University of Montana turns dangerous after she meets Rolf, a cell leader for the Earth Liberation Front. When one of their fire-bombings goes wrong, Abbie and Rolf go underground to lead a quasi-criminal existence, despite her parents’ televised appeals to turn herself in. Part thriller, part family drama, the novel is at its best in the analysis of Ben and Sarah’s failed marriage. Evans examines in excruciating detail the intentional injury and petty selfishness that accompany their break-up. Abbie’s disappearance lasts for years, with the FBI still watching the Coopers. It’s up to Josh, shy and usually stoned, to bring the family some closure.
An effective, if melancholy portrait.