Author Nina Revoyr
Reviewer: Dr Glenville Ashby
In this gripping odyssey a breathtaking adventure goes terribly wrong. Nina Revoyr takes a straight, narrow literary route, preferring a conservative and impeccably structured delivery.
Some may argue that The Lost Canyon lacks jaw-dropping appeal because of its detailed narration and ambling buildup. But no. It is expertly written. Revoyr is a classicist and she offers a trove of pointers for the wannabe writer. Lost Canyon has it all – colour, imagination, cadence, and character development. Admittedly, though, the measured development of the plot leaves readers thirsting for the assaulting action they are promised. Revoyr’s protagonists are strikingly different, a mélange of sorts. But they share one thing – the need to escape; to experience the mesmerism of Sierra Nevada’s rugged trail; to return to naked tranquility. Readers, especially those unfamiliar with the wilderness, get a first hand account of Nature’s wondrous transcendence. And all the pointers of trekking and back-packing are there for the taking.
And there are timeless lessons for good measure. The Lost Canyon breathes so many aphorisms about life and its vicissitudes. It barrels home the point that we are never in charge regardless of what we believe.
From Tracy, the annoyingly self assured fitness guru; and Todd, the well meaning but suburban-trapped, rich litigator; to the edgy but unremarkable Oscar, and the sympathetic and genuine, Gwen – the stage is well set for an adventure that turns deadly.
If only they could read tea leaves, for in a stunningly prophetic scene, serenity at the lake is disturbed by the clawing wiles of a hawk. “Suddenly Gwen heard a whooshing sound and locked eyes with a fish. It was caught in the talons of a huge rust winged hawk. The fish’s mouth was working and it must have been in shock, removed so suddenly from its watery home,” Revoyr writes.
“That was something,” Tracy said grinning. The poor fish didn’t know what hit him. That’s life in the wilderness,” Tracy remarked. “One minute you are just swimming along, minding your own business. The next……”
Revoyr captures the breathtaking surroundings – the calm before the storm. “They were standing at the edge of a meadow, a mile wide and at least two miles long…the river here was wide and meandering…the meadow was ringed with taller peaks that still held pockets of snow….the silence here was even deeper than the silence that morning. ‘Have We died?’ Todd asked. Because I think this might me heaven.’”
“This is unreal,” Oscar said. “I didn’t even know a place like this existed.”
But having traveled 8 miles of a 30 mile hike, physical exhaustion sets in for everyone except Tracey.
And later, the severed head of an owl coupled with an increasingly wild, unfriendly river seem to portend the incredulous confrontation looming.
Revoyr, with perfect timing, ratchets up the momentum. As the four stumble upon thugs protecting their illegal drug fields, Lost Canyon shifts gears. Suddenly, there is murder, a vile racist character capable of the unthinkable, and a daring escape by the hikers now glued by an unending existential crisis. But their dash to freedom is ever challenged by nature’s ruggedness and wrath. “The earth rocked and buckled as if from an earthquake…there was an audible buzz in the air, electricity crackling around them…A hundred feet away, there was a tree with a gash in the middle, the top half broken off, fire burning at the spot where the lightening had hit.” And they must also grapple with fatigue, indecision and assailants bent on murder.
A closer look at this work reveals something deeper that the disparity of characters based on race, class and gender. Surely, there are moments when Todd’s white affluence is mentioned, or Oscar’s Hispanic background, and the struggles of Gwen who opts to work in the inner city among black disadvantaged kids; but such difference hardly impacts the plot. What is certain is the unpredictability of Providence; how fate can bring the most unsuspecting individuals together under burdensome, life altering circumstances. Yes, we are sometimes at the mercy of a mysterious force, and on that level, Lost Canyon conveys an uncompromising message.
With Oscar shot and bleeding profusely, the hikers have become hunted animals. But they too must fight back. Euphoria has turned into trepidation and horror. With abated breath one can only guess who will leave the Canyon alive.
Lost Canyon by Nina Revoyr
Publisher: Akashic Books 2015
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