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Bookends: A Hunting Trip Becomes a Rescue Mission June 4, 2013

Posted by klondykewriter in Bookends.
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Bookends: A Hunting Trip Becomes a Rescue Mission

Rutting Season

By Dan Davidson

January 2, 2013



Rutting Season

By Roy Ness


360 pages



While the title of Roy Ness’ novel is suggestive of a number of things, it’s really not THAT kind of a story.  Not that there aren’t couples and there isn’t coupling but with the exception of David Hellman, most of the people in the book are quite a bit more serious about their liaisons.

There are several plot threads that weave their way through this book, and most of them do involve couples in some way. Three of them intersect directly, while two others are connected, but play out at a distance.

Ness doesn’t start out with couples though. He starts out with apparently disconnected vignettes about people who seem to have nothing to do with each other, so many of them on September 13 (the chapters have dates) that I was initially afraid I was going to have to make a list. Not to worry. They sort themselves out into several distinct clumps and keeping track turns out not to be a problem.

We begin with Hannah, an eco-warrior who is out to prove that grizzly bear trophy hunters are evil. She’s out with a two-person film crew in the wilderness of the Macmilllan River, north of Ross River. When she gets separated from them in a storm at night she expects to be able to cope, but the wind, water and cold wear her down quickly and she is pretty much done in by the time Dan MacKay, a half-breed hunter from Ross River, finds her, naked and delirious, two days later.

MacKay is on a hunting trip, but he’s also avoiding a custody hearing in Whitehorse because he honestly doesn’t know if he’s up to winning the battle for his preteen daughter, Starla, who is currently living with her mother, Tara. He rescues Hannah and they carry on down the river, having a variety of adventures with wildlife along the way, during which Hannah has to reevaluate her dedication to a vegetarian diet, along with some other things.

Among the wildlife we can count a bear, which has been shot by some very sloppy hunters and will turn up later in the story. Some of the chapter sections are from his point of view. Others feature a curious and hungry raven, whose comments on the activities of the “bobbleheads” are among the most amusing sections of the book.

Hannah’s husband, the aforementioned David, gets his act together when he realizes his wife is missing, and comes north to find her, hiring the services of Jim Giller and his daughter, Jessica, as guides to get him to the bush. Father and daughter haven’t been getting along well since Jim opted for a trophy wife over her mother a while back, but this trip seems to be good for them.

The mother is Susan Field, who happens to be Dan’s lawyer in the custody case, and she is deeply suspicious of Tara’s latest flame, Gary, who she suspects has a possible history of pedophilia, and may only be hanging out with Tara in order to get close to Dan’s daughter. We also spend some time with Starla, Tara and Gary, and we know there’s a problem well before Susan is able to prove it.

With some help from Owen Orser, her former law partner, who now works for the government, Susan confirms her suspicions and tries her best to do something about them, but the dénouement for this particular plot thread is not like anything she was expecting.

We rotate through these groups many times in the 13 days covered by the book, leaving us with a succession of cliffhangers and several different climactic events along the journey.  While the endings provided here are perfectly satisfactory within the framework of this book, there are lots of loose ends and it would be entirely possible to carry on the stories of most of these people in a sequel.

Rutting Season has recently received a starred review from the Kirkus Reviews Best of 2012 in the Indie Book category, which should encourage a lot of libraries to pick up a copy.





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