Legends of the North Cascades
June 2021 Indie Next List
— Stephen Sharpe, A Book For All Seasons, Leavenworth, WA
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“A beautifully rendered and cinematic portrait of a place and its evolution through time . . . A story of survival and the love and devotion between parent and child.”
—Jill McCorkle, author of Hieroglyphics
Dave Cartwright used to be good at a lot of things: good with his hands, good at solving problems, good at staying calm in a crisis. But on the heels of his third tour in Iraq, the fabric of Dave’s life has begun to unravel. Gripped by PTSD, he finds himself losing his home, his wife, his direction. Most days, his love for his seven-year-old daughter, Bella, is the only thing keeping him going. When tragedy strikes, Dave makes a dramatic decision: the two of them will flee their damaged lives, heading off the grid to live in the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest.
As they carve out a home in a cave in that harsh, breathtaking landscape, echoes of its past begin to reach them. Bella retreats into herself, absorbed by visions of a mother and son who lived in the cave thousands of years earlier, at the end of the last ice age. Back in town, Dave and Bella themselves are rapidly becoming the stuff of legend—to all but those who would force them to return home.
As winter sweeps toward the North Cascades, past and present intertwine into a timeless odyssey. Poignant and profound, Legends of the North Cascades brings Jonathan Evison’s trademark vibrant, honest voice to bear on an expansive story that is at once a meditation on the perils of isolation and an exploration of the ways that connection can save us.
Praise For Legends of the North Cascades…
—Booklist, starred review
“Only a writer of Evison’s talent could so brilliantly weave the struggles of a PTSD-stricken veteran and the ghosts of an ancient family into such a powerful social commentary. Wildly original and breathtakingly big-hearted.”
—Willy Vlautin, author of Don’t Skip Out on Me
“Engaging . . . This modern back-to-the-land story feels like John Krakauer’s Into the Wild meets Jean M. Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear, a combination that makes for a compelling read in its appreciation of the monumental properties of nature and recognition of the history of humans in the North Cascades.”
“Under the daunting and impassive mountains of the title, two dramas, one ancient and one contemporary, intertwine to become a greater story of parent and child attempting to survive in the harshest of circumstances. For me, the heart of this fine novel is Bella, a young heroine whose courage and steadfastness are a timely reminder of how human decency can prevail in the darkest of situations.”
—Ron Rash, author of Serena and In the Valley
"Evison weaves the prehistoric past and the troubled present together with imagination and tenderness in this haunting, timely meditation on the redemptive power of love.”
—Hillary Jordan, author of Mudbound
“Jonathan Evison’s Legends of the North Cascades is a beautifully rendered and cinematic portrait of a place and its evolution through time; it is also—pure and simple—a story of survival and the love and devotion between parent and child.”
—Jill McCorkle, author of Hieroglyphics
“Evison (Lawn Boy) delivers an intimate . . . story of grief and parenthood with characters from two distant millennia . . . Evison's empathetic vision offers much to consider about the limits of parental authority and the capacity for both physical and emotional survival.”
Algonquin Books, 9781643750101, 352pp.
Publication Date: June 8, 2021
About the Author
Conversation Starters from ReadingGroupChoices.com
1. Do you think Dave is a good father? Though his actions are dangerous in many ways, does a part of you sympathize with Dave’s decision to take Bella to live a life he feels is more authentic? Why or why not?
2. Have you ever dreamed of living off the grid? Where would you go? How do you think you would fare?
3. How would you characterize Dave’s political beliefs? Where do you think he fits on the political spectrum?
4. Do you think Dave regrets enlisting in the Marines?
5. How do you feel Dave and Bella will adjust to their return to society?
6. The individualist ethos is deeply embedded in American history. At the same time, many Americans also hold it in deep suspicion. Why do you think that is? What are your own feelings about individualism?
7. Some parts of American culture also champion the idea of supporting our troops. How do you feel we as a nation treat our military veterans in reality?
8. Why do you think the author decided to make Dave a former high school football standout?
9. Why do you think the author included the interview snippets from Dave’s friends, acquaintances, and neighbors?
10. What do you think is the nature of Bella’s connection to S’tka and N’ka?
11. What do you see as the common threads between the modern narrative and the Pleistocene narrative? Why do you think the author included both?
12. For you, what resonated as the major themes of Legends of the North Cascades? What did you find yourself thinking about the most after you finished the final pages?
13. Are you familiar with any of Jonathan Evison’s other novels? How does this book compare? What does it have in common with, and how is it different from, the other work(s) you’ve read?
14. Have you read other stories of survival, adventure, or living off the grid that you would like to recommend?