Monday, January 02, 2012

Touch by Alexi Zentner

I finished this book yesterday evening. It was dusk. I'd been reading by the light coming through my window and as I read the last words, it became too dark to read any longer. It was perfect. I simply sat in silence and awe of this beautifully written debut novel. Emotions swirled within me. I let myself just feel for awhile. Then I hastily scribbled some thoughts to try and capture just a tiny bit of that emotion.

This is a story about family stories. Stories that are passed from one generation to another and, in this way, keep those who have died alive. It is also the story of a place. A north woods (British Columbia) forest and river full of mystery and magic that lurk and overshadow human endeavors and intrusions. Sawgamet is a boom town gone bust. An inadvertent logging town that seems to exist at the beneficence of the forest. It is here in this harsh and beautiful place, with crippling winters and fickle summers, that the living and dead part and meet and part again through three generations of love and loss.

Magic is woven throughout the story so seamlessly that you don't question it. The forest is a character of great age and mystery, beyond modern rationality. Jeannot is a figure of mythic proportions tied to this ancient forest, and between these two characters is woven the net that allows you to suspend disbelief in such things as the golden caribou, the quallupilluit (sea witches), a singing dog, and a miner who repeatedly rises from the dead to take his revenge.

There is also romance of a kind that burns with a heat to rival that of the cold north. Beauty that challenges the harsh rugged setting. It took me by surprise and took my breath away at times.

I mentioned earlier that I sat in the dark with my emotions and thoughts. Part of that came from feeling this story through my own story of love and loss; from thinking of those that I miss dearly and the places that I visit in order to feel their presence more acutely. I'll leave you with the words I hastily scribbled last night:

We have our own harsh yet beautiful forests that we walk through; forests that are sometimes tinged with a touch of the magical. Those places that hold memories and perhaps the lingering presence of those we have loved and lost. This is how they live on ... we remember them and we tell their stories; we pass them to the next generation. We walk again in those places where those stories have their beginnings and middles and ends. We can almost see them, feel their presence as though they have left something of themselves behind ... which, of course, they have ...

Photo credit: Nancy Devine

Thank you to Eva at A Striped Armchair for pointing this book out and writing a wonderful review that made me want to read it!

My "review" is much more an emotional response than it is a review. For a lovely and informative review, please read Kim's words about this book at Reading Matters.


  1. This book sounds great, Terri. The perfect way to start a new year!

  2. This was such a lovely post Terri, and it made me very happy. :)

  3. This sounds amazing! Beautiful cover too. Definitely up my street.

  4. Thanks all for your comments! It is truly a lovely read and would be fantastic to add to the list of a Canadian authors reading challenge if there is one out there somewhere.

  5. You've convinced me... it's on my to-read list!