The Mountain Story
Simon & Schuster AUS
Copy courtesy of the publisher
When Wolf Truly goes up the mountain on that day, he doesn’t intend to come down. It’s a year to the day since his best friend Byrd suffered a tragic accident on the mountain, a place that they had spent so much time on. It had been their sanctuary and now without Byrd, Wolf doesn’t see the point in going on.
On the cable car up the mountain, Wolf notices three women and doesn’t realise until one of them asks him for directions once they’re on the mountain, that they are together. Nola, Bridget and Vonn are there to perform an important task and Wolf knows the mountains so after some persuasion, he agrees to take them to the particular place they are looking for. It’s somewhere he knows well.
But a rolling fog changes his bearings and the four of them become hopelessly lost. They have almost no water, no food. One of them is injured and another doesn’t have proper shoes. When night arrives, they’re so close to the city they can see all of the twinkling lights in the distance. But where they are means it’s impossible to get to that city. They have to try and find their way back down to where the cable car is although they face many difficulties in negotiating the terrain.
Four went up the mountain, but only three will come down.
Books, TV shows and movies where anyone is stranded anywhere draw me in like a magnet. I always wonder precisely what I would do if I were in that situation – the answer is never really very flattering, I’m not really what you’d call an outdoors girl. I’m good in a crisis though!
The Mountain Story is about Wolf, a young man who has really lived a life that’s been lacking in a lot of basic needs. His mother died when he was young, his father was not particularly equipped for parenting and Wolf seemed to mostly raise himself. They moved to California to be near his father’s family when he was a teenager and it’s there he met Byrd. Byrd became a close friend, perhaps Wolf’s first real friend and the two of them spent a lot of time together, especially up the mountain. When his father goes to jail and Byrd suffers a terrible accident, the light goes out for Wolf. He goes up the mountain on his eighteenth birthday, intending it to be for the very last time.
Three women upset his plan and some confusion results in them being lost on the mountain and somewhat trapped. Slowly the dynamics of the three women he is with are teased out as secrets and resentments begin to spill out of them and Wolf in turn, confides in them some of his darkest moments. I think at various stages, none of them believe they are ever getting off the mountain and that they can say anything and yet other times they are desperately certain that they will prevail, that they will find their way back or that rescuers will find them. As the days pass and their situation gets increasingly more desperate, one of the four makes a dramatic decision for the sake of rescue. The way in which the characters evolved over the course of their time together was really very well done. The four people who go up the mountain are forever changed by what happens up there, forced to examine themselves and the actions they’ve taken in their lives. Their secrets are exposed, their insecurities, their strengths and weaknesses.
I really admire the way in which the author built the tension in this story. It’s a subtle thing, as each day passes and they seem no closer to getting rescued, the situation becomes all the more desperate. One of their party is injured, another has revealed something that means they really need to get found as quickly as possible. Someone isn’t wearing shoes. They’re all little things really but add up to make things more difficult and more uncomfortable and make moving around through the bush and negotiating the terrain they need to all the more difficult. It was easy to sympathise with them all at various times in the story because they go through so much. The three women are there to do something moving and simple and instead they end up in a perilous situation. Wolf goes there to actually end his own life but instead finds a reason to actually keep on living in getting these three women out safely. When it becomes obvious things are getting very, very desperate, one of the party commits a daring act to attempt to secure rescue and I was pretty shocked by what unfolded. And yet it somehow all managed to fit so well, when I looked back at everything.
I really enjoyed the way this story was told, like I said before I’m a sucker for stories where anyone is stranded somewhere. I find it a really interesting way to examine character and the human ability to adapt and persevere. The most unlikely of people can really find something in themselves during a crisis and I loved the fact that this book was told as a letter to someone, explaining to them what had happened on that mountain so many years ago and how it had shaped the life of the person receiving the letter. This was a great read and I’d love to read more from the author in the future.
Book #84 of 2015