Truth be told, I figured I'd flip through Will because the author, Dan Cardinal, is the son of some old friends. I didn't expect to discover an irresistible main character on the first page and a compelling story that I put down only once (and reluctantly at that) before I finished reading.
Will Brown, mourning the death of his young wife and
child in a traffic accident, gives up his engineering job and moves to
his family's long-unused cabin in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. He plans
to stay for ". . .maybe a week--maybe a little longer." Cardinal takes
us along on Will's quest and shows us the landscape in deft bites that
describe just what sorry shape the property is in ("Along the back wall
of the cabin stood a row of firewood that bore the uniform blackish-gray
color that came from years and years of weathering" and, even better,
"There was nothing else that was not a part of the forest. Indeed, the
timberland was making a nature-paced advance to reclaim the old cabin").
From there, the timberland becomes not only backdrop, but a supporting character.
is the name of this likeable protagonist as well as what the story
explores. Will's resolve to survive even as he copes with his grief
leaves us urging him to go the distance.
Cardinal describes the
brutality of life in the UP, but also its beauty--and the rough but
comradely kindness of its people. But this is far from a navel-gazing
novel of sadness and despair. It's a story with plenty of action and
plenty of heart, a tale as personal as one told in the back booth of a
warm country tavern while a winter storm rages outside.
It is an exceptional piece of work.