Dave Cartwright is already living on the edge, with a blue collar job he hates that barely pays the bills, a house on the verge of foreclosure, a failing marriage, and the recurring memories of three tours in Iraq. His only bright spot is his sometimes too-wise daughter, Bella, who sees and understands much beyond her years. When the unthinkable occurs, Dave makes a seemingly over-the-top decision to move with Bella to a cave in the wilderness. As they embark on this compelling and challenging backcountry adventure, Bella’s reality takes an unforeseen turn, retreating into the ancient world of a mother and son who lived in the cave thousands of years ago at the end of the last Ice Age. What unfolds amidst the struggle to survive is a meditation on both the perils of isolation and the human need for connection.
I’m not 100% sure what I think about this book. Excellent writing and the setting was vivid and vibrant, but…honestly, I finished the book and thought “What was the point?” I felt sympathy for Dave and his struggles—and I actually agree with him about wanting to shut the world out because of the toxicity and hate—but we didn’t get to see his moment of epiphany.
The ending was very abrupt, and I didn’t even care if Dave lived or died. I cared about Bella, yes, but what was the point of her flashbacks into the ancient past? Why did they even happen—and how? No answers, sadly.
Jonathan Evison is a bestselling author. Legends of the North Cascades is his newest novel.
(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Books in exchange for an honest review.)