The Mountain Can Wait.
In fact, it’s had to wait, because I’ve been a little busy and it’s been some time between finishing the book and writing this review, so in the words of Miranda, bear with.
The mountain in question is in Canada, which was a lovely start, following 2015’s A Place Called Winter by Patrick Gale which was also set in Canada, although more than a hundred years previously.
It felt at the beginning that I was returning to a previous home, which is a credit to the writing (both Leipciger’s and Gale’s) – because either they’ve both managed to get Canada spot on, or they’ve both made up the same version.
Tom Berry is responsible for replanting trees on the mountain, reporting into a large corporation that is cutting them down elsewhere. He has raised his children alone, after his wife abandoned them when the children were young.
One day, on the cusp of adulthood, Tom’s son Curtis is driving home from a party when he hits a girl with his truck. A split second decision, one moment of poor judgement leads to Curtis speeding away from the scene of the crime.
Books like this make me stop and think about the name of the book. Why is it called that? What does the mountain represent? What is it waiting for?
The mountain in this book is the mountain on which Tom works. The phrase is used to describe Tom’s younger self, shrugging away his family life, wanting to get back to work, to get back to the mountain.
“He hadn’t learned yet that the mountain could wait.”
The mountain which literally lurks in the background of the entire novel will always be there. Tom can go away, do what he needs to do for his family, and then return to the mountain waiting for him.
But the mountain is more than that. It is the inevitability of inescapable events. The moment Curtis drove away from that girl on the mountain road, it was waiting to catch up with him. It is not something that he can escape from.
Both Tom and Curtis must come to terms with what has happened, and as they do we get to witness sweeping vistas of Canada that are so beautifully written, you almost wish the book will never end.
The scene where Tom lies in a canoe and floats out on a lake is a particular highlight, along with all the scenes involving Bobbie on the remote island where Curtis’s mother grew up.
Bobbie is easily the best character in this book – if this were a film, she’d be on screen for all of ten minutes, would be played by Meryl Streep and win an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress – and I wish we had more of her.
I’d also have loved for more exploration of the relationship between Tom and Curtis and how the absence of Curtis’ mother dominated their lives together but what we do have is a beautifully vivid setting and a very melancholic ending.
I’ve given The Mountain Can Wait 3.3 out of 5.
Next week, I’ll be reviewing Everyone Brave is Forgotten by Chris Cleave