Loners seeking solitude in the Alaskan wilderness find love, and a kind of family.
In this colorful debut, Foreman introduces a cast of ornery misfits, each of whom has his or her own reasons for ending up in bleak Toehold, Ala. Lovely Mary Ellen, aka Mel, has been on the run since she was a teenager, fleeing a hateful mother who did her best to sever Mel’s only loving family ties. Cody adored his own mother, a flower child from the Haight, but he’s discovered he can’t be at home anywhere near other people. He prefers the silence of the wilderness or even of the carcasses he expertly mounts as taxidermy. Throw in a few other outsiders, such as Buddy, a former marine who abandoned civilization when his wife took off, vowing to “take his pension and move as far away as he could get and still be in the United States.” Add Native Americans, such as Summer Joe, back from a jail stint for bigamy, and the oversized bartender Sweet-ass Sue, and the small settlement of Toehold is complete. But, like a darker version of Northern Exposure, love blossoms even among these gruff types. The catalyst comes slowly and rather late in this novel, through one of Mel’s typical harebrained schemes. She advertises her rented trailer as the “Golden Bear Lodge” and herself as a hunter. She has, in fact, seen a magnificent golden-furred grizzly and dreams about making him her prize. But when an obnoxious Los Angeles film producer answers her ad, he sees only a scruffy town and a pretty chick. Although the producer remains an annoying stereotype, by the time this delayed action kicks in, Foreman has fleshed out his oddball cast. The ensuing developments basically concern Cody and Mel, but in Foreman’s assured prose the others’ stories come to life as well, for a denouement that flows as smoothly as the river.
Oddball romance rich in local color.