REVIEW: Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde
The gorgeous cover drew me to LEAVING BLYTHE RIVER by Catherine Ryan Hyde, but its wilderness adventure aspects with a positive message convinced me of this new-to-me author’s talent.
LEAVING BLYTHE RIVER by Catherine Ryan Hyde is a young man’s coming of age adventure that teaches him confidence and forgiveness. Ethan Underwood is a scrawny seventeen-year-old boy who has always been overshadowed by his father’s courageous spirit. When Ethan and his mom catch his dad in a compromising position with one of his employees, who also happens to be the girl Ethan has been crushing on, Ethan becomes resentful. This begins the demise of Ethan’s family as he knows it, but life is about to get so much worse before he finds his way.
Ethan’s story is told in chapters titled by weeks before his dad disappears and then weeks after his dad disappears, all moments that have shaped Ethan’s current mindset. The novel goes back and forth, revealing Ethan’s feelings of inadequacy and fear after he gets mugged. This is very clever because it keeps the reader guessing about what happened, but it can also be confusing so I had to re-read a couple sections to make sure I understood the story. After the mugging, Ethan’s confidence is at an all-time low. His feelings toward his dad are more on the side of hate and disgust, rather than love. When Ethan’s grandmother has a stroke, his mother is forced to go care for her aging parents. This pushes Ethan into living with his dad in a remote cabin near the fictional Blythe River National Wilderness.
Ethan and his dog are unprepared for living in the land of grizzlies after calling Manhattan home. It isn’t long before Ethan starts obsessing over obtaining a can of bear spray in order to be able to leave the protection of the cabin. His dad prides himself on his physical prowess, so he runs twenty miles daily. When his father doesn’t come home after one of his runs, Ethan begins to worry.
After a search is launched and the rescue team doesn’t find his dad, Ethan is left with a dilemma. Does he believe that his father has abandoned him? Or does he follow his instinct that his father is still alive and in need of help? Does Ethan even care? Ethan convinces his neighbors to accompany him into the rugged mountain wilderness, that’s dangerous and overwhelming to a city boy, to search for his father. Will Ethan’s worst nightmare be realized or does it become much worse than he fears?
Since Ethan is in a remote location for most of the story, the mountains become an integral part of the adventure. If you’ve ever dreamed of going by horseback deep into the wilderness, then you’ll relate to this young man’s adventure. There’s even a little romance blossoming between two of Ethan’s adult friends that adds some humorous situations.
Author Catherine Ryan Hyde is best known for her book PAY IT FORWARD which inspired the PAY IT FORWARD movie, foundation and concept. Even though I enjoyed the movie, I didn’t read the book so I didn’t make the connection until I visited the author’s website. If you love mountain photos as much as I do, I suggest you check out her photo site as well. Discovering a healthy backlist by this author is an added bonus.
LEAVING BLYTHE RIVER is an entertaining coming of age adventure novel well suited for adults. Even though Ethan has more issues than most kids his age, he pulls on the reader’s heartstrings as he develops his strengths. In truth, Ethan is much wiser than either of his parents and he proves it by the end of the novel. I especially enjoyed the scenic wilderness described by the author. Catherine Ryan Hyde’s love of the outdoors is evident. A good piece of fiction, LEAVING BLYTHE RIVER teaches lessons through a young man’s experience, eventually giving him the strength to realize his dreams.
Review by Dorine, courtesy of The Zest Quest. Digital copy provided by the publisher through NetGalley.
Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde
Category: Coming of Age Fiction
Publisher: Lake Union Publishing (May 24, 2016)
Rated 4 out of 5
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