Now, I'm going to try something I've been very lax about doing in the past few weeks. We'll say weeks. We might mean months. Or something in between weeks and months. Is there something between weeks and months? Forgive me, I digress. I am about to attempt reviewing a book (!!) I read a good time ago, and I'm attempting to psych myself up for it, but really I may just be procrastinating.
Zentner's debut finds Stephen Boucher, an Anglican minister, returned home to keep watch by his mother's deathbed. As Stephen waits for his mother's inevitable passing, he has many long hours to contemplate his past in Sawgamet and to reflect on how his and his family's lives are woven inextricably into the fabric of a place fraught with myth and mystery. From the moment Stephen's grandfather Jeannot is halted in his westward progress through the virgin territory of British Columbia by his dog Flaireur's refusal to go on any further, Sawgamet takes a firm hold of the Boucher clan.
Sawgamet is richly drawn, a coldly beautiful town filled with ghosts and the darkly magical, a character in its own right. In fact, the strength of this novel lies in Zentner's ability to imbue the gold rush town turned logging town into a place crawling with the mystical. It's easy to picture ghosts, some well-meaning most not, lurking in Zentner's frozen wilderness. Stephen's own memories of his childhood complete with a tragic accident and his grandfather's mysterious return after years of absence are melded with the stories he's always been told of his grandfather and grandmother, stories of impossible magic, burning chemistry, and unexplained treasure.
Stephen's memories ground the story in the realities of a logging town, filled with men carving out a living from the region's dangerous lumber industry. Try though he might, he can no longer cull the truth from the fiction, but the stories have taken on lives of their own, and it's the stories that make Touch soar. As much as the stories with their mythical proportions do transfix, Touch is one book that might very well benefit from one of those diagrams that map out the family tree that sometimes crop up within the first few pages of books. Perhaps with that, I would have wasted much less time and brain power trying to pin down who was related to who and could have dedicated myself to fully enjoying Zentner's tale, parts of which I'm sure went over my head while I was busy trying to figure out who exactly Stephen's uncle was married to. Also, it sometimes seemed that the characters, who should be ultra-sympathetic, sometimes held the reader at arm's length. While I appreciated their stories, I rarely felt like I was fully involved with them. Aside from my own obsessiveness about the family tree, though, Touch is a hauntingly beautiful tale filled with the elusive magic of storytelling.
Fancy hearing some other opinions?
She Reads Novels
Oh, how important are the reviews anyway? Wouldn't you pick up this book based on the pretty covers alone? Which is your favorite? Or are you that rare creature that really doesn't judge a book by its cover?