A man finally finds himself after tragedy turns his life upside down in this novel.
Nico Azzarà is obsessed with time and control, a fixation that allowed him to rise from rags to riches after his family emigrated from Italy to Buenos Aires. But his sense of control is suddenly torn from him when a vacation to the lush wilderness of Patagonia is cut tragically short by an accident that kills his wife and young son. Nico soon returns to the place of the crash, as wrecked inwardly as his crushed Mercedes. The first few days of his stay are recounted slowly as the devastation sinks in, and though his friend Jorge encourages him to return to the city, Nico refuses to leave the one place where he feels closest to the loved ones he lost. Days soon turn to weeks and then to months, with Nico surviving off of fish from the river and meager help from distant friends and strangers, including a kind man named Pablito, who patrols the forest. In time, Nico makes his camp more and more livable with supplies that come his way, and he begins to explore both the landscape around him and the feelings within him, searching for a purpose to continue his life. From beginning to end, Stephens (Business Life Eating Guide, 2016, etc.) strings words together like a true artist, allowing him to paint not only striking scenery, but also authentic emotions. Secondary characters and plotlines are less developed than the primary ones, but these problems only slightly detract from an otherwise captivating tale. The plot isn’t particularly fast-paced or action-fueled; rather, it’s unhurried, thoughtful, and emotional, much like Nico’s state of mind after the accident. Without being too heavy-handed, this story is replete with worthy lessons, such as the importance of treasuring relationships over riches, the powerful impact of true and patient friendship, and the value of pursuing your passions. The strong scenes and messages in this book will likely linger with readers long after they have put it down.
A beautifully crafted story about grief that portrays a rich physical and emotional environment.