cover image In the Heart of the Canyon

In the Heart of the Canyon

Elisabeth Hyde, Author . Knopf $24.95 (316p) ISBN 978-0-307-26367-4

A group of strangers converges for a rafting trip in Hyde's fifth novel, an astute, engrossing character-driven affair. Assembled for guide JT Maroney's 125th excursion down the Colorado River are Peter, a Cincinnati 20-something; Harvard professor Evelyn; the Compsons, a family of four from Salt Lake City; and three couples: the Frankels, seasoned rafters in their 70s; mother and daughter Susan and Amy Van Doren; and the Boyer-Brandts, both 60-ish. After a cursory safety orientation, personalities emerge: Evelyn is nursing a broken heart; Peter is desperate to hook up with assistant guide Dixie; Ruth Frankel frets over her forgetful husband, Lloyd; and Susan battles inner demons and her overweight daughter, Amy (whose diary entries are interwoven). A stray dog joins the gang as bouts with heatstroke, festering open wounds and capsizing boats threaten to sabotage the adventure, though these seem tame compared to the surprise that hits downriver. The novel succeeds as both a study of strangers striving toward a common goal and as a suspenseful drama filled with angst and humanity. Hyde outshines herself with this wild ride. (July)