Alone on the Shield: A Novel

Kirk Landers Chicago Re­view Press (NOVEM­BER) Soft­cover $15.99 (384pp) 978-1-61373-991-4 The Cana­dian bor­der­lands, and their lakes, rivers, and portages, are ren­dered with a jour­nal­is­tic eye for de­tail.

Foreword Reviews - - Reviews Adult Fiction - JEREMIAH ROOD

Kirk Landers’s Alone on the Shield is an ad­ven­ture story mixed with a love af­fair set deep in the Cana­dian wilder­ness. It speaks to midlife, twin urges to es­cape and to un­der­stand.

Gabe Pen­der’s life is not go­ing well. He has re­cently di­vorced and been fired, and he has a sim­mer­ing well of anger left over from the Viet­nam War. Yet his char­ac­ter is writ­ten with wel­com­ing ev­ery­man qual­i­ties that peer deep into the soul of Amer­ica’s heart­land.

Gabe has watched the rich get richer while his jour­nal­is­tic dreams flicker and die. His so­lu­tion is to em­bark on a solo ca­noe trip into the north­ern bound­ary waters of Lake Su­pe­rior and south­ern Canada, a land as dan­ger­ous and re­mote as Pen­der’s own heart.

As his jour­ney pro­gresses, Pen­der de­cides to in­ten­tion­ally leave be­hind his past in the hopes of open­ing an un­cer­tain fu­ture. As with all hero jour­neys, though, meet­ing the fu­ture means deal­ing with the past. His is shaped by anger, but also comes with the pos­si­bil­ity of for­give­ness and love.

Pen­der may start his trip alone, but he hopes to spend some of his ad­ven­ture with his long-lost col­lege flame, An­nette. An­nette is a com­pelling char­ac­ter in her own right, hav­ing also found and lost her­self. The pair de­cide to re­con­nect in the wilder­ness, de­spite her reser­va­tions.

The story is writ­ten with a jour­nal­is­tic eye for de­tail. The Cana­dian bor­der­lands, and their lakes, rivers, and portages, feel very real. Pen­der’s days are filled with fish, pad­dles, and the threat of dan­ger. He seeks es­cape from his past, but this hope is par­tially de­nied by the anger he car­ries inside him.

This is a sear­ing por­trait of a man suf­fer­ing from de­pres­sion, char­ac­ter­ized by anger and oc­ca­sional vi­o­lence. The book ef­fec­tively mir­rors Pen­der’s in­ter­nal strug­gles with the out­side forces of na­ture. The wilder­ness of­fers pos­si­bil­i­ties for trans­for­ma­tion and re­demp­tion.

A com­pelling mix­ture of ad­ven­ture and ro­mance, Alone on the Shield is a tightly fo­cused novel that deftly speaks to grow­ing older and the strug­gle for un­der­stand­ing.

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