It may appear, based on the evidence exhibited on this blog, that I haven’t been reading very much. In a way that’s true; I’ve been reading a little less than usual. Is it because I’ve been focusing–narcissistically–on MY BOOK? Maybe. (Do I ever pretend to be anonymous on this blog? I don’t know–sort of!–but oh well. I’d rather you buy my book than not know who I am!) Is it because I’ve been teaching so many children that my reading time has devolved into decompress-in-front-of-food-travel-shows time? More likely.
One book I actually have read lately is The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac by Sharma Shields. It is a long, wild novel that spans decades and spins out from the moment little 9-year-old Eli Roebuck’s mom abandons him to head into the woods with her lover, a Sasquatch named, improbably, Mr. Krantz. Many chapters have Eli at their heart, but others follow the stories of the women in his life–his two wives, his two daughters, his mother. When I saw Sharma read, she called the novel “messy,” then revised it to “feral.” I definitely don’t think it is messy. If I picture the trajectory of the book in my head, it looks sort of like a frayed rope. There is a solid, traceable center, made up of braided stories. Each is recognizably separate but also serves the whole. Coming off of those strands, are smaller threads–the complications of each sort of sub-story. It’s a brave and exciting way to structure a book.
I tend to have the same problem when I read a lot of books with supernatural elements in them: I think that they aren’t REALLY supernatural. I take the alternate world as a metaphor or the super tall hairy monster as the projection of a traumatized child. But some books really are science fiction, or speculative, or have fantastical elements to them. This book is one of them. For a good long while, i was convinced that there wasn’t really a Sasquatch, even though the reader immediately gets the good look at him that most of the characters never do. It wasn’t until a succession of other supernatural beings and phenomena showed up that I understood–no, he really IS a Sasquatch. Whose problem is this? Certainly not Sharma’s. One benefit that my skepticism had, though, is I feel like I spent a little extra time considering Eli’s psyche, and a little extra time empathizing with all the characters who thought that Eli was delusional, because I thought he was, too.
Though complicated and multi-faceted, The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac is also a quick, fun read. Sharma is from Spokane, and wove the Northwest landscape through the novel in a way that this East Coast reader found fascinating, too. Pick it up!