[I received a copy of The Mountain Story by its Canadian publisher Random House Canada. This does not affect my opinion of the novel.]
“On his 18th birthday, Wolf Truly takes the tramway to the top of the mountain that looms over Palm Springs, intending to jump to his death. Instead he encounters strangers wandering in the mountain wilderness, three women who will change the course of his life. Through a series of missteps he and the women wind up stranded, in view of the city below, but without a way down. They endure five days in freezing temperatures without food or water or shelter, and somehow find the courage to carry on.” – Goodreads
I first heard about The Mountain Story when I saw Random House Canada tweet it months before it came out. What intrigued me initially was that Claire Cameron (the bestselling author of The Bear) had written a blurb for it. Claire is someone who I really admire, so hearing her positive review of the book beforehand really piqued by interest. That being said, I was still not expecting to love this book as much as I did.
The Mountain Story has one of the best taglines I’ve seen in a while. “Five days. Four lost hikers. Three survivors.” – it really doesn’t get more interesting than that. Even before I started to care about the characters, that plot point alone kept me turning the pages way past my bedtime. Would suicidal Wolf be the one who doesn’t make it down the mountain? Or would it be one of the Devines – Nola, Brigid, Vonn – that fall short with their lack of hiking experience? I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that I was very satisfied with that aspect of the plot, as morbid as that sounds. If I were Lansens, I don’t think I would have done it any differently (though I doubt I’d have the skill to come up with something so right in the first place).
The pacing of this story was perfect, as was the writing. Not being much of a hiker myself, I was pleasantly surprised by how invested I was, and how easily I could put imagine myself in the characters’ situation. But beyond the survival aspect of the story, I was also drawn to the characters’ histories: what led Wolf to the mountain and his decision to end his life in the first place? How have the lives of the Devine women been before this? I felt so deeply for Wolf as he slowly revealed his past to readers, especially as he remembers his friend Byrd, while the complicated dynamics between the Devine women were relatable and ultimately heartwarming.
The Mountain Story is not just a survival story: it’s a coming-of-age story, a (subtle) love story, and a story that pushes its characters to keep going, even if it seems like all is lost.
Verdict: A well-written story with an impossibly intriguing tagline that is sure to keep you turning the pages. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I loved it.
Read if: You like a good survival story, you want to feel like you’ve gone hiking and survived without actually having to do it, you need to know who the casualty is and how the survivors adjust after they’ve made it back down the mountain.
Are you a fan of survival stories? If you got lost on a mountain, what kind of hiker would you be? (I’m not sure I would be a very optimistic lost hiker…)