Reviewed by: Pete Barber
Genre: Literary Fiction
Approximate word count: 95-100,000 words
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Dan Cardinal was born and raised in northern Wisconsin. He double-majored in English and Computer Science at UW Madison and lives in his home town with his wonderful wife and three lovely children.
Only days ago, Will Brown’s wife and three-year-old daughter were killed in a freak road accident—both of them wiped out instantly. Soon after the funerals, living in his marital home in Midland, lower Michigan, wrecked with grief, and surrounded by in-laws, friends, and well-wishers who don’t know what the hell to say to him, Will has a brain fart and decides to run . . . to a remote cabin in Michigan’s UP Upper-Peninsular.
Gosh, this is a terrific story. Let’s get the mechanics out of the way first--tight writing, clean editing, engaging and compelling scene setting. Yeah, well, those things may sound trite, but they certainly help a story along--Mr. Cardinal is a hell of a writer.
But it’s the characters, Will and his supporting cast, that make this a great story. They all felt real to me: his concerned father, his understanding boss, and most of all the locals in the tiny town situated a two hour hike from his cabin.
I know nothing about black bears or living in remote, cold places in the far north of America. Nor do I ever want to shoot a deer and field dress it, but I trembled along with Will as he waited for the big buck to shift into his sights. My heart raced when I wondered if the momma bear protecting her cubs, or Will, would win in their battle of wits and survival. I loved his dog, Max, as much as Will did.
Most of all, I felt Will’s heartache at the loss of his wife and child. I joined in his journey and agreed with his unorthodox recipe for curing a broken heart. Running away to the middle of nowhere seemed logical. The tiny cabin into which he poured his energies provided--through his physical endeavor--focus, a solace if you will. His father, although concerned when his only son ran from a good job and a steady existence, still supported him, and in a personal way empathized because he’d too lost his wife too soon.
And then the locals: a few scraped a decent living from tourists in the summer and full-timers in the winter. But many others, like Will, had cut themselves off from the ‘real world’ for personal reasons and became so married to the isolation that, like frantic beasts caught in tar sand, they were no longer able to extract themselves.
Would Will end up like them, unable to leave? Would his life become so inwardly focused on surviving the tough winters, and alcohol, and solitude, that he’d die alone and full of regrets like Lars Jackson. Or could he grasp onto a woman’s love like a lifeline and trust her enough to help him overcome his inner demons and break away? Could Will become a new person, a good person, a better person?
Well, if you’re interested in finding out. I suggest you read the story for yourself. I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Rating: ***** Five stars