Storm Riders

Craig Lesley, Author
Craig Lesley, Author Picador USA $24 (352p) ISBN 978-0-312-24554-2
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Paperback - 352 pages - 978-0-312-26398-0
Paperback - 978-0-312-27745-1
Prebound-Sewn - 978-0-613-99944-1
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As desolate and lonely as the rural scenery of its setting, Lesley's latest novel examines in deeply moving detail the conflicted love of a single father struggling to raise his adopted, mildly retarded son. Billed as partly autobiographical, this wrenching tale examines eight years in the tormented life of Clark Woods, who adopted Wade, the cousin of Woods's then wife, Payette, as a way of trying to save the marriage. Instead, the difficulties of raising the troubled boy contribute to the couple's breakup. A Native American from Alaska born with fetal alcohol syndrome, Wade tests his new parents' marriage from the start. Payette, frustrated with Wade's erratic development, cannot sustain the all-consuming task of raising her cousin and eventually runs off, leaving Woods, a professor at Two Rivers College in western Oregon. Frightening, violent, possibly psychotic tendencies begin to emerge in Wade's personality, escalating over the years. As a nine-year-old, he is suspected of drowning a toddler in a muddy culvert. Wade denies it, but Woods isn't so sure. Yet Woods stands fiercely behind the boy, whom he is convinced cannot distinguish right from wrong, and whom he is unwilling to abandon to the state system for the mentally ill. At the same time, Woods knows he has to break the bond--that Wade is suffocating his spirit, sapping all possibility of joy from his life. The two do, however, develop a form of love as profound as it is forlorn in this intense story about loyalty and letting go. Lesley (Winterkill; The Sky Fisherman) captures this poignant, despairing quality of love, rendering quiet scenes as heartbreaking reminders that both Woods and Wade are in for a lifetime of struggles and painful challenges that can only ever be, at best, partially redemptive. Regional author tour. (Feb.)
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