The Mountain Story, by Lori Lansens (2015)

The Mountain StoryWolf Truly takes the Palm Springs aerial tramway on his 18th birthday, intent on ending his life. He is mourning and carrying a heavy guilt for the loss of his best friend Byrd, exactly a year ago on the same mountain. There’s no one to miss him – his mother died when he was a preschooler, and his detestable father Frankie is in jail for killing a couple while driving drunk. But the fates have other plans for Wolf, in the form of three hikers who are lost on the mountain, and convince him to help them find the way to Secret Lake. A series of mishaps strands the four on the mountain, desperately trying to survive the harsh November conditions some 8000 feet (2600 metres, higher than Mount Cheam in Chilliwack) above the desert floor. Wolf left his backpack behind and the women were woefully ill-equipped. With virtually no water or food and only one warm coat, the four face the real risk of death. Lansens is a Canadian-born writer now living in Southern California. She draws on her knowledge of the area to create a capricious adversary who torments the hikers with wind that sounds like helicopter wings, icy nights, slippery slopes, the threat of coyotes and mountain lions, and the agonizing realization that civilization is literally within sight but absolutely inaccessible. While overtly this is the story of survival in a wilderness, it’s also a coming-of-age story, as the novel is delivered by Wolf as a letter to his own now-grown son Daniel. Lansens successfully manages the time difference so there’s no jarring shift in the narrative. She provides none of the historical touches that one would expect – no references to the bands, technology, or fashions of the day. Instead, Wolf tells his story by focusing on the events that led him, Nora, Bridget, and Vonn to the mountain that fateful day, and for the first time tells the entire truth, including a surprising reveal at the end. The characters are generally well developed, and I enjoyed the plot from start to finish. It’s not easy reading. Frankie is an awful father, and Wolf’s life has little joy outside his awesome friendship with Byrd. In a way, this is also the story of Wolf’s survival to adulthood, despite the conditions of his life. There are moments of humour to lighten the mood, and I even laughed out loud a couple of times. A couple of plot twists annoyed me (the loss of the log bridge made me roll my eyes) but overall, this is a strong story that will keep the reader interested to the very end.
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About Michelle Mallette
I'm just trying to keep track of the books I've read - what I liked and what isn't worth re-reading. My work as a librarian has included youth services so you'll find a wide range of interests from picture books and teen dystopia to adult sci-fi, road trip novels, and nonfiction. Comments and communication is always welcome.

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