The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger

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The Mountain Can Wait by Sarah Leipciger

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Luke Marlowe
Reviewed by Luke Marlowe
Summary: Sarah Leipciger writes of remote woodlands, isolated communities, and fractured familes in The Mountain Can Wait, a subtly moving debut
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 288 Date: May 2015
Publisher: Tinder Press
ISBN: 9781472223890

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Tom Berry is a quiet man - one who lives for and in nature, spending a half of his year running a small team in remote, isolated forests. The other half he spends tending to his family - a small group whom he brought up almost single handedly, following the departure of his wife. A good, determined man, we learn of Tom's life running forestry teams in remote wilderness, before an accident forces Tom to leave his routine and seek out his son - and both become troubled by the events of the accident, as well as ghosts of the past that may cause more pain than either man had anticipated.

The wilds of Canada are a rather staggering concept for someone who has grown up in the UK - in terms of mass, the United Kingdom could fit into Canada's vastness more than 40 times over. Towns and villages can be located hundreds of miles from each other, with little in the way of civilisation in between, and wild animals roaming the vast tracks of barely touched land that cover much of the country. ' The Mountain Can Wait focuses on that vastness - as Tom races over large distances to reunite with his son.

In itself though, The Mountain Can Wait is a small, self contained novel - one that focuses on a small cast of characters, and does so excellently. Tom is a very strong personality, and it's tricky to dislike him - a man who has brought up a family single handedly, and remains a vivid, relatable and constant presence throughout. Early scenes in the book reminded me of Atticus Finch - which is never a bad thing! As Tom travels to find and help his son, the backstory is slowly filled in. We learn of the departure of the children's mother, of childhood scrapes and accidents, and of how Tom has become the man he is - shaped by hardships but constantly brightened by his love for both family and nature - as well as the family he finds in his ragtag groups of forest workers.

This is a gentle, gripping read that really takes the time to define and breathe life into its characters - I felt almost like I knew Tom, Curtis and the others by the time I put this book down. Strong personalities are exposed and explored against the stunning backdrop of the Canadian countryside, and all fully envelop the reader. The pace flows evenly, and the climax managed to be breathtaking without being overstated - and the ties between father and son, husband and wife, employer and employee, and man and nature, are thoroughly and skilfully explored.

Comparisons to Annie Proulx have been made, and are not at all unjustified - Leipciger brings relatable characters to life and studies them intimately, much like Proulx, and both clearly take time to truly craft and shape their novels.

Tinder Press have constantly impressed me since their launch - publishing books that are thoughtful, intelligent and well curated. The Mountain Can Wait is another sterling book to add to their collection - and Sarah Leipcinger is most certainly one to watch.

Many thanks to the publishers for the copy.

Another book published by Tinder Press, A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale takes place in a similar backdrop to The Mountain Can Wait, but is set in a much earlier time period. Both are clever and insightful character studies that grip to the very last page.

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