Review by Elizabeth Lang, Public Services
I recently read the Wired.com article “Why Humans Totally Freak Out When They Get Lost” by Michael Bond. I learned that when we get disoriented, we panic, often leaving the area where anyone might expect to find us, and that we tend to do this even when we know better!
A few days after reading the article, I happened across the novel Kingdomtide by Rye Curtis. Kingdomtide tells the (thankfully fictional) story of Cloris Waldrip, a 72-year-old survivor of a plane crash in the mountains. Serendipity! Given my new knowledge about the grim reality of getting lost, I was curious to see how first-time author Rye Curtis treated the matter. Well, the story he tells in Kingdomtide is a wild ride!
Cloris and her husband are flying over the woods of the Bitterroot Range in Montana in a small plane when the pilot loses control and the plane crashes. As the sole survivor, Cloris tries to make do with only her wits and what scraps she can find in the wreckage while she waits for rescue. Before too long, however, she does what humans often do in real life, she wanders away from the crash site and gets lost.
Ranger Debra Lewis is alerted to the crash and eventually finds the crash site, with two bodies, but no sign of Cloris. Like a hound sniffing out a fox, she attempts to follow the scant trail left by Cloris’ wanderings. While the search plays out, strange things are happening. Mysterious local resident Silk Foot Maggie leaves grotesque humanoid constructions in random places. The ghost of Cornelia Akersson may be out and about. A fugitive from justice is thought to be hiding in the woods. And a young woman named Jill may not be what she seems.
Unfortunately, Ranger Lewis is struggling through the emotional wreckage left by her recent divorce, her addiction to Merlot, her odd and unhelpful coworkers, and a lack of resources, so progress toward finding Cloris is slow to nonexistent. As the days since the crash stretch out into weeks with no evidence that Cloris is alive, the rescuers give up, save Ranger Lewis, who will not entertain the idea that Cloris is dead.
Kingdomtide centers on the unconventional quirkiness of its characters and plot. It explores some disturbing and dark themes. The characters are complex and weird. Many live in the moral grey area of not a “bad guy”, but not exactly a “good guy” either. Kingdomtide pulls no punches with its explicit descriptions. Readers who are bothered by bodily fluids might wish to skip this one. Curtis wraps up Kingdomtide’s several storylines by the end, but this story is not a fairytale. Things turn out badly for some of the characters. Kingdomtime is recommended for readers who like zany stories, highly original characters, a bit of suspense and mystery, and a non-formulaic plot.