Remember the great fascination with Bigfoot/Sasquatch back in the 1970s and 80s? It seemed to die down pretty quickly, and we’ve all but forgotten about the mythical reclusive beasts living in the Rocky Mountains of Canada and the northeastern U.S.
Ottawa-based author Conor McCarthy’s self-published debut novel cleverly resurrects the Sasquatch (or in their language, Mm’tor) idea and puts them (yes, there are more than one) squarely in a story about survival, wilderness exploitation, property development and environmental issues, so that there’s more to this adventure-thriller than meets the eye.
Barry Bloburne is a high-stakes property developer that wants a ski resort built in a pristine section of the Canadian Rockies. And what Barry wants he gets, and not always legally. GreenBand, an environmental group is out to make sure that the wilderness and the wildlife are respected. Barry has no time for them. His specious argument is that wilderness this beautiful should be accessible so that others can enjoy it. Nevermind the fact that only those with large incomes will be able to afford to stay at the resort once it is built. “I know what I’m doing. I’m taking harsh, indifferent Nature, putting a bridle on her and providing kickass ski vacation opportunities for those who can afford it” Barry tells his old girlfriend Kelly.
One day, Barry is out for a drive in his Lexus SUV when he gets out to admire the scenery on from a little-used road. After getting out he automatically locks the doors, then loses his keys in the deep snow. As night sets in, he has to break his car’s window to get into the backseat to try and keep warm until someone comes along. Next thing he knows, he has awoken in a den or cave by a fire with other humans. He is told by Marta that Mm’tor (or Motorman as he is known to them) has rescued Barry from freezing to death. The others have been similarly saved. Motorman keeps them captive by blocking the mouth of the den with boulders. For two months, Barry is Motorman’s guest, but as spring begins to thaw the snow, he is able to effect an escape by digging out, along with Marta and two others. Barry returns to civilization but keeps his story secret to avoid any questions of his sanity amongst his team of engineers and staff. The resort construction goes ahead as planned, but somehow Barry’s encounter with a Sasquatch gets leaked out and comes to the attention of Spencer Lam a wealthy Asian who wants to capture one of the beasts and put it in a Zoo. Barry finds himself a victim of blackmail and must lead Mr. Lam to the Motorman’s lair.
When I was halfway through this book, I still wasn’t sure what direction The Great Divide was going to go in, and I sure didn’t expect the climactic ending deep in the Rockies. I was particularly fascinated by the day-to-day operations of the resort’s construction and the encounters with the environmentalists, whom Barry loathes.
Aside from being a great read, The Great Divide is a commentary on who gets to enjoy nature. Should we necessarily have an “all-access” pass to every part of it? Are environmentalists (particularly activist ones) always in the right? This is an extremely well-written novel, and apart from heaps of f-bombs and adult <ahem> situations, I truly enjoyed reading this book. A Miramichi Reader “Pick”! (Picks are awarded to exceptional self-published and/or internationally published books by authors outside Canada.)
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