The Mountain Can Wait
By Sarah Leipciger
For fans of Brokeback Mountain and Legend of a Suicide, a story of a father’s attempt to save his wayward son.Tweet
I thoroughly enjoyed this book even though it wasn't one I would normally read. The author had a good knowledge of the country and portrayed the hard way of life and the difficult family situation very well.
I loved the part of the story that was set in the mountains planting tree seedlings. I would have been quite happy for the whole book to have been set there as I found the descriptions of the scenery, work and human relationships excellent. I wasn't surprised to learn the author had experienced this as it came through in her writing. Curtis's grandmother was an interesting character too, I could imgine her standing on the beach looking towards the kelp but I couldn't warm to Erin or Curtis themselves even though Curtis was the main point of the book. I tended to rush through their stories. Well worth the read and it made me wonder how tree seedlings in the Scottish Glens are planted albeit on a much much smaller scale.
Sprotbrough Readers' Group (Doncaster) read this book and have offered the following thoughts:
Unsure what the book was trying to tell us. I did not enjoy it. The story was rather ‘bitty’ going off in many directions, not holding my attention. Good descriptions of the part of Canada depicted in the novel. Strange characters all with complex problems. I only finished the book to enable me to take part in the discussion at the Readers’ Group. - 2/5
Not a book I could relate to. I knew nothing of Canada or its lifestyles/culture before I read ‘The Mountain Can Wait’ and I don’t feel any better informed at the end of it. Despite an expansive endeavour by the author to bring to life a varied landscape it somehow failed to register with me. The characters seemed to all be damaged escapists. I found the hippie elements dated and irritating. I found the disjointed style annoying and disconcerting. Even though this was a fairly short novel, I found it hard going and it took me twice as long to read it than I had expected. I don’t think I’d have finished it if it had not been a Readers’ Group book. A ‘nearly’ book that could have been great if it had a re-write by a more experienced writer. Jarred in places. - 2/5
Initially, sparingly written: the story and characters take time to develop. A good narrative, fully capturing the people and the landscape. Well-observed, rounded characters and the sounds, senses and the environment. First half of the book was not as absorbing as the second – when the storyline gathers pace. - No Rating Given.
I thought the book was not a page-turner. The author appeared to have too many storylines and unsure which one to pursue. I did not like her use of foul language – maybe the book was written with a younger audience in mind. There was also a lot of jargon pertinent to the timber trade so perhaps the book will have a wider appeal to the Canadian market. - 2/5
When I first joined the Readers’ Group I was asked by the (then) members about my taste in authors and books. I am sure that Pat will remember my instant reply – Annie Prioux, with Margaret Atwood a close second if that. The background, faithfully developed with honest, unprepossessing characters are also here in Sarah Leipciger’s book. Deep joy! There. Next please. Quality counts. - No Rating Given
Have you ever received a Christmas box or a birthday gift so elaborately packaged that, when you peeled away the wrapping paper to reveal the present hidden within, you were disappointed by the contents? Well. That’s how I found Sarah Leipciger’s new paperback. It’s well-written and well-researched, but it failed to engage my interest; the story is thin, while the dressing is fulsome and detailed.
The novel is set in Canada’s West Coast. The location is dramatic: forests, lakes and mountains are described in almost obsessive detail. The author has a real feeling for time and place, and for the impact of the changing seasons upon a rugged and always challenging terrain. A similar attention to minutiae is evident in the treatment of both work and domestic skills: tree planting, logging, hunting, cooking and plumbing are all painstakingly described.
Tom Berry runs a tree planting business and employs a good number of people, organised into crews, each under the supervision of a foreman. There is not much of a story though. While driving his car, Curtis Berry, Tom’s teenage son, accidentally kills a girl when he takes his eyes off the road. The police are soon on his track. He runs away to his grandmother, Bobbie. His father catches up with him and persuades him to surrender himself to the police. He is sent to prison.
Narrative drive seems to be less important than setting and the interrelationships between characters. Tom Berry is in his late 30s; his wife, Electra died a long time ago when his two children, Curtis and Erin, were infants. His relationship with his children appears to be somewhat distant and problematic. Tom is hardworking, honest and trustworthy, but rather cold and unemotional. His relationships with women are similarly disengaged. He has an on-going, casual, mostly sexual, relationship with Carolina, who he believes to be a university lecturer – at least until very near the end of the novel when serious doubts about her employment status become evident. On location, planting trees, Tom succumbs to the sexual advances of Nix, the predatory cook who has the hots for him. There is no love lost between Tom and Bobbie his mother-in-law.
Tom’s most uneasy, and eventually confrontational, relationship is not with a woman, but with Daryl Sweet, one of his foremen. Sweet is a bitter, conniving, skiving idler who cheats on his job; Tom does not hesitate to sack him when an independent inspection reveals the scope of Sweet’s shortcomings. Tom and Sweet are polar opposites. Their dissimilarities have little role in advancing the plot, but rather they function as a means of emphasising Tom’s positive qualities as a man and as an employer.
Leipciger is mostly concerned with how people behave towards each other, their perceptions of each other and how those perceptions change. The relationships are in pairs which sometimes link with others: Tom/Sweet; Tom/Eleka, Tom/Carolina, Tom/Nix, Tom/Bobbie, Tom/ Erin, Tom/Curtis, Curtis/Bobbie. The male characters are fairly stereotypical: hard-working, unemotional Tom; villainous Sweet; Curtis the troubled teenager, a mixture of sensitivity and angst. The female characters are more complex, rather eccentric and more interesting: Eleka, the late wife, who it is hinted may have been mentally unbalanced; Carolina, the bohemian intellectual, who may not be altogether what she claims to be; Nix, earthy and sexy; Bobbie, old, seemingly cold and unfeeling, but finally showing a softer side in her eventual concern for her grandson.
‘The Mountain Can Wait’ is a well-intentioned homage to Canada’s north-west and to the hard-working people who make a living from that rugged country, but ultimately it fails to grip the reader and inspire the turning of the page. - 2/5
Average mark from 11 members of The Wallington Evening Book Group who on the whole loved the description of the changing landscape and how the characters appeared to reflect it. Some group members feeling were very different to others over certain aspects of the book, so the book was an excellent book group choice. Thank you
I found this book refreshingly different from my usual reading genre. Dealing with male emotions by a female writer who I found to have covered this subject well. In what appeared to be a very isolated and harsh existence, there are some very tender moments between father and son towards the end of the book, made all the more poignant because the father finds it hard to show his love. Characters were very plausible and the descriptions of the environment seemed very real although quite brutal. It is a book I would recommend to those wanting something more fulfilling.
I really enjoyed this book and felt that the characters were believable and well developed. I enjoyed the descriptions of the Canadian landscape which were vividly depicted. I did not expect to feel so much for the characters but the way that the story reflected on the father's life before and throughout his children's lives really engaged me and I found some parts of the story moving and genuinely sad.
Overall, a really good read.
I found The Mountain Can Wait to be a really easy and absorbing read. Although some of the descriptions were long-winded, I felt this was purposeful, to highlight the slow-paced and stark life that the main character was living. I could very easily picture the scenery and the situations - proving that the long descriptions were worthwhile. Although the story was quite ambling in places, I felt the slow build up and the layering of the characters helped me to better understand the relationships, with both the people and the landscape. It felt like the quite brutal and lonely environment was a reflection of the suppressed emotions of the main character, Tom. It was an interesting insight into a broken and halting father/son relationship - a well written male perspective considering the author is a woman. I enjoyed reading this book and will look out for the author again.
I enjoyed the observation of the father/son relationship and how the book explored how limiting a lack of communication can be. I felt the characters were very believable and the author really made you care about them. The tree planting sections evoked a real sense of the stark working environment.
I read this book in 3 days. It's a real page-turner. I am very pleased I found out about this book through Reading Groups for Everyone, as it isn't one that I thought would appeal to me. Having visited several of the places in Canada mentioned in the book I found the descriptions of the places spot-on.
The detailed descriptions of the planting I found a bit drawn-out but then I suppose that reflected the backbreaking tedium of the job and I was interested to learn that the author herself had been a tree planter.
My one criticism would be that the book took a long time, after describing the accident at the beginning, to get to the aftermath of that event.
I would recommend others to read this book.
This book had a mixed response from the group but mostly favourable. Was a sensitive portrayal of a father/son relationship. We really understood the Dad's attitude towards work and family (his sense of priorities). Very well written - The descriptions really helped us to visualise the scene and the work that Tom did. Could visualise the Canadian mountains. The fact that the author had done this kind of work showed in the writing.
The Blackheath reading group were given copies to review
this is our collective review
The book is beautifully written - the descriptions of the broody landscape is very evocative and I almost felt that it was almost a character!
We were all interested on how location can shape a community and some of as were fascinated in the sections in the book about planting etc. ( although 2 members found these passages tedious ).
The characters were interesting and very believable. The way the relationship is explored between Tom and his son Curtis was interesting - although I felt that the character of the teenaged daughter was under developed.
- I have visited Canada and was touched by it's beauty so was very interested in the descriptions of the locations in the book - I even got out a map of the areas to look at!
- the plot after the dramatic beginning slowed down a lot - but I realised that the book was not just a thriller
- the girl with the two different coloured eyes intrigued me - couldn't quite work out why she was in the final chapter?
on the whole and very interesting and enjoyable book that explored the nature of complex family relationships with the natural environment of the wild Canadian outdoors.
This book is fast paced and believable. Father brings up two children on his own, having to make a living away from home as a tree planter in the forests of Canada. Balancing both parts of his life is not easy as they each have their own problems. A good debut novel.