Leaving Blythe River by Catherine Ryan Hyde
From the Publisher:
Seventeen-year-old Ethan Underwood is totally unprepared to search for his father in the Blythe River National Wilderness. Not only is he small, scrawny, and skittish but he’s barely speaking to the man after a traumatic betrayal. Yet when his father vanishes from their remote cabin and rangers abandon the rescue mission, suddenly it’s up to Ethan to keep looking. Angry or not, he’s his father’s only hope.
With the help of three locals—a fearless seventy-year-old widow, a pack guide, and a former actor with limited outdoor skills—he heads into the wild. The days that follow transform Ethan’s world. Hail, punishing sun, swollen rapids, and exhausting pain leave him wondering if he’s been fooled yet again: Is his father out here at all? As the situation grows increasingly dire, Ethan realizes this quest has become about more than finding his dad.
From the bestselling author of Pay It Forward comes a story of nature revealing human nature—the trickiest terrain. Navigating an unforgiving landscape, Ethan searches himself for the ability to forgive his father—if he finds him alive.
I really, really enjoyed this book. Like, really enjoyed it. The writing was superb; I could have been eating burritos, fording rivers, and facing down grizzly bears with the characters. And the characters themselves were all well imagined, believable, and I'd have gladly spent time with any of them - except for Noah.
While coming of age stories in the wilderness are a pretty common genre, I loved this story. It wasn't your typical "kid goes on a solo adventure in to the wild and after surviving deadly things, is changed". Leaving Blythe River was a story of people helping each other out, and of the strength it takes to put aside strong feelings and do the right thing. The main character, Ethan, does change in the woods - but not because he almost starved or anything so dramatic as that - but for the perfectly everyday reason that he stepped out of his comfort zone repeatedly.
He found his voice and strength through many small acts of personal bravery, which is easy for most people to relate to.
This was one of those hard to put down stories, where I found myself thinking about it while I was washing dishes, or walking the dog. I finished the book almost two weeks ago now, and it's still floating around in my mind.
Find Catherine Ryan Hyde and Leaving Blythe River around the web:
Author's website: http://www.catherineryanhyde.com