The Mountain Can Wait, by Sarah Leipciger, is a haunting tale of misjudgement, disconnection and the scars that run deep within families. Set largely in the mountains of British Columbia, Canada, the story centres around Tom, a widower, whose wife walked out on him when their youngest child was just a few months old. Tom is a practical, reticent man. He has raised his children in the environment which he loves, teaching them the practical skills that have served him well. He struggles to give them the emotional support that they desire.
The story opens with a hit and run on a lonely mountain road. Tom’s son Curtis, high on drugs, hits a young girl as she walks home from a party which they both attended. He leaves her in a ditch, thus changing the course of his life.
Tom works away from home for months at a time managing his tree planting business which aims to restore the damage caused by the logging companies. He harbours a dream of a home high up in the mountains where he may hunt and live at peace with his surroundings. When Curtis turns to him during a visit to town Tom does not understand his son’s need. It is only when the police arrive that he realises the seriousness of what has happened to his eldest child.
Tom has made his own mistakes. The spiteful actions of an employee tarnish the reputation of his business and fracture his relationship with his girlfriend. With his carefully laid plans falling apart he comes to understand what he must do for his family.
“His children? Like letting his heart and lungs go walking off without him.”
Parents serve their children’s sentences alongside them.
The writing has a stark, lonely quality that belies the beauty normally associated with this part of the world. There is nothing idyllic about these people or their surroundings.
The pathos of the story is countered by the avoidable foolishness of the protagonists actions. It could be argued that they deserved what they got, yet the harshness of such a judgement is highlighted by the empathy that the reader must feel when presented with the history and loneliness of each character’s situation.
A raw tale of the mistakes people make and the hurt that can be caused by misunderstanding those we love. If good writing causes strong feels then this novel, the author’s debut, is impressive indeed.
My copy of this book was provided gratis by the publisher, Tinder Press.