Happy belated Father’s Day! Not all of us have wonderful fathers. In fact, some people actually have pathetic fathers. Such was the case for seventeen year old Ethan Underwood. Ethan is enthralled with Jennifer, also seventeen, who works in his dad’s office. But, he and his mom’s trip to Peru was delayed and they walk in on his Dad … with Jennifer. The author skips over the sordid details when his dad was ‘caught’, but by assumption, we know his dad left and Ethan and his mother were on their own. When his mom receives word that his grandmother is ill, she has to leave Ethan to go take care of his grandfather. Ethan has no choice but to go stay with his father in a remote cabin within Blythe River National Wilderness.
Living, even temporarily in Blythe River, is sharply contrasted to their home in New York. He has to learn to think about his dangerous surroundings … grizzly bears for instance. As he’s exploring, he comes to know two of their neighbors, Sam, who a pack guide, and Jone, an eccentric seventy-year-old. His dad is still practically non-existent, taking off and running for fitness for many hours and about eighteen miles per day. But, his dad fails to return one day and the search is on. Then, the search is abandoned as the ranger and cops believe he just abandoned his son. Ethan keeps looking. He can’t live with himself if he doesn’t even try and his dad is actually out there in the wilderness, lost or injured.
After a meandering start, the thrusters kicked in and the story became a fast-paced emotional roller coaster. This Blythe River is fictional, located about 100 miles south of Casper Wyoming and Yellowstone. The author’s use of subheadings was innovative. Many would reference the time-line to Ethan’s dad’s disappearance. For instance, chapter three’s subheading was “Three months before his father disappeared.” Catherine Ryan Hyde was also the author of the bestselling novel, Pay It Forward. The story is one that will stay with you as you watch Ethan mature and breakthrough from a teen worried about ‘teen things’ to a very responsible young man. Rating: 4 out of 5.