So I’m back in Germany (Berlin actually) and I’ve just finished Sarah Leipciger’s The Mountain Can Wait. Before we dive in I should mention that this book came out in summer 2015, so many people have already read it, but if you haven’t you’ll probably want to pick it up. Go. Go now and pick it up, especially during the Fall months when nature is still pleasant to be in.
The story begins with a hit-and-run incident, but the plot doesn’t touch upon this accident again until halfway through the book so the reader is given a chance to get their bearings and understand the characters a bit more before the fallout begins. Tom, the patriarch of the family is quiet, uncomfortable with expressing his emotions and consequently turns to nature when struggling with his life as a single father. His kids, Erin and Curtis are both kind-hearted, independent and active, ready to take on any challenges their dad throws at them. We meet these three when Curtis and Erin are essentially adults, but we learn snippets of their childhood through Tom’s reflections, eventually piecing together the reason their mother is gone. As the pieces of the puzzle fall into place, the tension builds as well, because the references to the missing mother are quite ominous and it’s one of the bigger mysteries that comes to light in this story.
Other than the family drama, another interesting aspect of this work is Tom’s second life in the bush. He owns a company that manages tree planting up north, and with this comes vivid descriptions of the dirty, fraternity-like world of tree planting that so few of us will ever experience. It’s a bizarre world, but Leipciger describes it in such a way that you can easily imagine yourself up north with the crew, swatting at flies and crouching by the fire, shovelling porridge into your mouth before the gruelling day of work begins. Yes, it seems like a bit of a time-out when we follow Tom into this isolation, but I believe Leipciger did this on purpose. Like Tom, we readers can forget about his problems in the ‘real world’ as we tuck into his other life in the deep forest, literally allowing us to breath some fresh air before we dive back into the aftermath of the hit and run.
So there’s a real push and pull in this book: between one’s duties towards family, and one’s duties to oneself. These aren’t always in conflict, but they are certainly examined in a thoughtful, and entertaining way in The Mountain Can Wait.