Article published on February 19, 2015.
The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger is published by Tinder Press in hardback, price £16.99 on 7 May 2015
Another debut and one for which Tinder Press have understandably high hopes. You can take the girl out of Canada but you can’t, it would seem, take Canada out of the girl. Ms Leipciger now lives in London with her family and apparently teaches creative writing to prisoners. She certainly likes a challenge. However, she has paid her dues winning prestigious prizes with her short fiction and her first novel focuses back on what she presumably knows – the Canadian forestry industry. The inside front and back covers – of the proof I read – have photographs of trees, trees, and more trees; standing up, lying down, across lakes and mountains. These are from ‘the time I spent as a tree planter on a crew much like Tom’s in the novel’.
Tom, is a man of few syllables being happy to be judged on what he does rather than what he says. Unfortunately, this translates into an inability to talk to his children – Curtis has left home as soon as he can, teenage daughter Erin is still at home but starting to kick the furniture. And they are all besieged by the ghost of Elka, their mother/Tom’s wife – a wayward spirit who repeatedly left them all until one day, she just didn’t come back. But we begin late at night with Curtis, early twenties and the lone driver on a quiet road. A split-second lapse of concentration means he knocks down a girl and leaves the scene of the crime – a hit and run.
Unaware, Tom is managing his planting team in the far reaches of the forest, but the outside world gradually comes looking for information about Curtis. He, in the meantime, has gone on the run, ending up at his estranged grandmother’s – a part custom-made for Kathy Bates when this is made into a film, which it surely will.
I’m skipping through but then that’s pretty indicative of the pace at which I went through this book. Sarah Leipciger is a talented writer and certainly one to watch. I have to admit that had her name not been on the front cover I would have assumed she was a male writer. The style is terse and to the point, on the edge of being aggressive – nothing wrong with that, in fact I like it, just quite a mismatch in my mind. More importantly, it might win her a male readership that doesn’t usually opt for female authors. Perhaps some JK-style initials are in order?
When all’s said and done, this is another DFWI novel – dysfunctional family with issues – but then so many are these days, aren’t they. There is a kind of resolution but not so smooth and pat that you think, oh yes, of course. Worth checking out.
Guy Pringle, February 2015
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