Guest Post: A Review of ‘Mountain’ by Ursula Pflug

I’m happy to have James Fisher on my blog today! James is a blogger and reviewer at The Miramichi Reader; a wonderful source of book reviews from small Canadian presses with a strong focus on Atlantic Canadian literature, both fiction and non-fiction. You might be particularly interested in checking out his Very Best! Book Awards page.

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Ursula Pflug is the award-winning author of the novels Green Music; The Alphabet Stones and the story collections After the Fires and Harvesting the Moon. She has been shortlisted or nominated for many awards and currently lives in Norwood, Ontario. Her latest novel is Mountain (2017, Inanna Publications)

Mountain is a novel (but at only 98 pages, more of a novella) that tells the story of seventeen-year-old Camden O’Connor, a girl who lives in two worlds due to her parents’ separation. Her father Lark is a minor rock star based out of Toronto. When with her Dad, she is the typically spoiled city girl with all-access to her father’s credit cards. Life with her mother Laureen is decidedly different: she is a member of “The Tribe” a nomadic collective community that lives off the grid (for the most part) along the west coast and elsewhere in the U.S. and Canada. Laureen is a self-proclaimed “hardware geek” and it is her main responsibility to set up Internet access for the community. This is where Mountain begins: in Northern California during the spring thaw, the snow is melting and the ground is thawing, giving the area of the encampment a Woodstockian vibe. Everything is either wet or muddy or both. In a few days, Laureen leaves Camden at the camp to go to San Francisco pressing a $50 bill in her hand (“not that you’ll need it; I’ll only be gone overnight”) and is gone.

On her own, and with no way to charge her phone or even be able to use it if she could, Camden’s outlook on life outside the city slowly begins to change:

Brown and white and blue: the colours of spring before the snow melts. As always, the media fast made everything seem flat and dull. I knew from experience this would pass, that in a day or two nature would be a better content provider than my phone ever did.

Camden is befriended by Skinny, the young man responsible for camp security and a general jack-of-all-trades. For Skinny, like Laureen, The Tribe has been a way of life for years now.

“Every year the rest of North America gets more like the life I’ve known from day one.”

“It hasn’t been such a bad life has it?” I asked.

“I don’t have anything to compare it too,” he said and abruptly got up and left.

Not much of a mall rat ever, I guess. That would be one difference between us. So he’s like me, or one side of me, only more so.

The spiritual relationship between Camden and Skinny slowly unfolds as she awaits her mother’s return, possibly with her boyfriend Peter, a man neither Camden or Skinny have much use for. Camden begins to keep a journal and even interviews some of the residents to get their background stories. It is through this project and her talks with Skinny that she comes to understand herself and start her own healing process, eventually carrying what she learns back to the city.

Mountain is a short, but captivating read. It is aimed at the young adult reader (no sex, occasional profanity) and I found it most interesting once I understood the culture of The Tribe. The main characters are likeable, and the backdrop of the mountains and nature, in general, give Mountain a healing and meditative aspect uniquely its own. For such a short work, Mountain produces an impact of disproportionate size.

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I’ll be away from the internet over the next week or so – I’ll catch up with you when I get back! Happy Reading!

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13 thoughts on “Guest Post: A Review of ‘Mountain’ by Ursula Pflug

  1. annelogan17 says:

    This sounds like a very cool book, although no sex is rarely a prerequisite for young adult writing, in fact I find it needs to include more sex! Hahah

  2. James says:

    Well, there is the potential for a sexual relationship, but there are unerlying issues as to why it doesn’t happen between Carmen and Skinny. 🙂

  3. Deepika Ramesh says:

    ‘Mountain’ sounds like a fascinating read. I am surely adding it to my TBR. For some reason, my heart is after novellas these days. ‘Mountain’ seems just right. 🙂

  4. The Cue Card says:

    I’ve been a bit spooked on Northern Calif off-the-grid stories since Emma Cline’s cult novel The Girls — but I like how this one juxtaposes Camden’s city life with the outback.

  5. Grab the Lapels says:

    I wonder how naturally the book moves the teen from a city girl mindset to being comfortable without the luxuries of contemporary technology. I was just in a cabin for four days with no Wi-Fi or cell phone signal, and let me tell you, it’s a challenge. I’m not even that in love with my cell phone to begin with.

  6. buriedinprint says:

    As a kid, I was always fascinated by stories about kids who had to make it on their own when a parent (or parents) disappeared. Seventeen years old is so “between”; I can imagine that would create both possibilities for and complications for telling this story. Sounds intriguing!

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