cover image Legends of the North Cascades

Legends of the North Cascades

Jonathan Evison. Algonquin, $26.95 (352p) ISBN 978-1-64375-010-1

Evison (Lawn Boy) delivers an intimate if uneven story of grief and parenthood with characters from two distant millennia. After onetime football hero Dave Cartwright returns to Vigilante Falls, Wash., from his third and worst tour in Iraq with the Marines, he struggles to reacquaint himself with civic and domestic life. The sudden death of his wife, Nadene, makes Dave ever more disillusioned, prompting him to uproot his seven-year-old daughter, Bella, to a cave in the Cascades. As days stretch to weeks and months and winter closes in, Bella starts having visions of the Paleolithic people who once populated the area. Chapters about an Ice Age mother and child alternate with Dave and Bella's increasingly perilous situation and with gossip about Dave conveyed through interstitial monologues from various folks back home. The parallel narratives of familial trust and parent-child conflicts among the ancient people and between Dave and Bella develop effectively in tandem, though the idea of some kind of psychic connection between this young girl and her Ice Age predecessors feels strained. Moreover, Evison's judgmental modern-day townspeople are unbelievably openhearted and endlessly forgiving, even after Dave's actions endanger Bella and others. Despite its faults, Evison's empathetic vision offers much to consider about the limits of parental authority and the capacity for both physical and emotional survival. (June)