This ambitious novel tells the story of four very different people from Los Angeles who go hiking in the mountains expecting to be challenged, but they get far more than they’d expected when they strapped on their backpacks. Readers should not, however, confuse this for a typical man vs. nature story.
The book alternates between four main characters, telling parts of the story from each of their perspectives with little overlap. They’re a diverse group, and as the action intensifies, it’s interesting to see divisions within the group shift to outside it, with each of them broadening the “us” in which they include themselves. The book doesn’t shy away from discussing race and class, lending it a crisp realism.
This realism also carries into descriptions of the natural world. Revoyr is adept at capturing the dangerous beauty of the wilderness; she makes the reader feel how the things about a rustic landscape that draw us to it are also the things that can kill us. Her eye for detail means that every bird is described accurately in both appearance and behavior, and wildflowers are portrayed so vividly you can imagine the grandeur of the mountains offset by their fragile beauty.
The meat of the book lies in its survival story and its social novel aspects. The trouble they stumble into follows them, so that in addition to hiking off-trail through the mountains while fearing starvation, falling to their deaths, and bear attacks, they have to worry about being killed by other people. This additional element makes a classic survival plotline into something directly relevant to the lives of Revoyr’s characters–and readers’ lives, too. With ripped-from-the-headlines action and character backstories that relate to real-life issues like the foreclosure crisis and the plight of students at inner-city schools, Revoyr has crafted an absorbing, thought-proving read.
Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr (Akashic Books | 9781617753534 | August 25, 2015)