Book: Back of Beyond, by C. J. Box (NEW August 2, 2011) Note: I listened to the book on MacMillan Audio, read by Holter Graham. Simultaneously released in hardback by St. Martin’s Press.
Have you ever had a hankering to saddle up and ride into the back country of Yellowstone National Park? You might change your trip plans after you read Back of Beyond. On the other hand, the descriptions of the beauty and awe of the “back of beyond” wilderness might make you just move your plans a bit earlier.
Remember that Beach Read, Summer Rental , that I tried to listen to in the car with Ken? Big time fail for Ken (not for me). However, Back of Beyond is a recorded book that has enough blood and action to keep him interested for miles of driving. I first listened to it with my sister as we drove long stretches through Nova Scotia and Maine. Did we relate to the two teen age sisters–the social butterfly (that would be me) and the quieter, thinker? You bet. But that does not make this chick lit, no matter how you slice it. (Whoops! “slice” is not a word to be used loosely in relation to this book.)
C. J. Box regularly wins awards for his mysteries, and has written ten novels. This one features a recovering (maybe) alcoholic policeman from Montana. His son, who lives with Cody’s divorced wife, has gone on a pack trip with the ex-wife’s boyfriend. Cody’s exploration of the murder of his AA sponsor leads him to Yellowstone park in pursuit of the pack trip. The book gets grizzly, even without any bears.
Interestingly, although this is most definitely not a young adult novel, a fourteen-year-old girls plays a pivotal role. One of the many delights of the skillful writing of C. J. Box is his ability to capture the personality and speech patterns of two quite different teen sisters. (Turns out he has his own teen daughters, so he knows whereof they speak). The sixteen-year-old Danielle, is, like, bored out of her skull, and OH-my-god, there is, like, NO cell phone service where they are going. The younger sister, Gracie, expects less from other people. Not being the center of attention like popular, pretty Daniele, has given Gracie the opportunity and ability to observe and read people. That’s a skill that comes in handy in the complex shifting of suspicion about who can be trusted in this mystery novel.
In an interview at the end of the C.D. of the novel , I learned that C. J. Box worked in tourism before he became a novelist. Thus he has traveled widely in the Western states that he writes about, and he believes that bringing those places to life for the reader is one of his primary jobs as a writer. As travelers who read, we love that. He can tell us how a place feels, smells, wraps around us– and we can decide if we want to go there. According to his web site bio, he and his wife own an international travel business, too. So he definitely is one of us.
Although the fictional outfitter in the novel claims to be the only wilderness outfitters licensed by the National Park Service, there are in fact several outfitters that do pack trips. I think the one that looks most like the company in this book, though is Yellowstone Outfitters, with its Thorofare trip or Wilderness Pack Trips, who also offer a Thorofare trip. As I look at their sites, I can see where many of the ideas for the book might have come from scanning these two web pages.
Disclaimers: The terrific photos here come from Flickr with Creative Commons license. The exception is the photo of the author, from his web page. Please click on the photos to learn more about the photographers. MacMillan audio supplied the book to me for review. When you click on the Amazon links and buy ANYTHING AT ALL within 24 hours….A Traveler’s Library makes a few cents. THANKS!
I know that many of this blog’s readers like mysteries that introduce them to a possible travel destination. But how about introducing an activity? I’m not very adept at riding, and don’t think I’d tackle a week-long pack trip. How about you? Have you done it? What’s it like?