“You’re a link in the chain, but it’s more than a chain. It’s like a whole gigantic fabric. A huge quilt. And God, God’s like the needle. God sews it all together. God connects us. It’s a crazy a** quilt, and every square is different, see, but God connects us.”
I love a good wilderness survival story but Legends of the North Cascades is so much more than that. Dave is a man with a Purple Heart and the PTSD to go with it. He struggles with regular life and integrating into society after his three tours in Iraq, the monotony of life and living by rules that he doesn’t agree with lead him to make an unpopular choice. Despite everyone’s objections he decides to take himself and his 7 year old daughter off the grid.
Now, this isn’t Into the Wild, Dave and Bella settle in a cave in the mountains but are within a day’s walk of town and are relying on some modern conveniences like library books. So they’re “selectively” off the grid, but their struggle is not just the battle of outdoor life but with their own emotions. Living with grief and anxiety is not easy and the devotion of these two to protect and challenge one another is both inspiring and hard to read at times. We see their extended family members trying desperately to intervene and their continued fight to live the way they want to. That need is less fueled by the desire to live off the land but rather fueled by their underlying fears and anxieties. We see the depths of isolation and how it can hinder rather than help healing. Can they find a way to overcome and heal and integrate back into society?
My favorite part of the novel was a parallel story about ancient peoples who lived on the same land who were also balancing how to survive and also how to integrate with others of their kind. Bella is experiencing this story as a sort of mechanism for coping with her own life. That story is raw and filled with tragedy and a need for connection with the Great Provider.
This is a great introspective read but delves into some heavy topics. As someone who struggles with some of the same issues, I found the book both resonated with me and triggered me a little so I had to take it slow but I appreciated the journey. Thanks to Algonquin Books for a copy of this novel. All opinions above are my own.
How long do you think you could survive “off the grid”?