Into the Canyon by Michael Neale wasn’t the novel I expected it to be. The back cover copy led me to believe it was a story about a man learning to forgive. That was one brief element of the book, but Into the Canyon was really a series of verbal snapshots from that man’s life taken while he was in his mid-twenties. Throughout the book, Gabriel Clarke, now an old man, is reminiscing about that earlier time in his life while mentoring a middle-aged man whose family is on the brink of falling apart.
There is no plot. There is no story. It’s as if we, the readers, get to see all of the sentimental or emotional moments of a young man’s life through which others encouraged him, yet we don’t get the context that connects all of these, therefore it’s hard to believe Clarke feels the emotions we’re presented with or to believe they were significant at all.
At one point, early in the book, it seemed as if a great mystery was beginning to unfold. FBI agents were even called in, but that story line was dropped as quickly as it was picked up. For readers, that mystery was never solved. I wondered why it was even introduced at all.
On the positive side, the book is full of the wisdom of Clarke’s mentors that, as an old man, he passes on to his friend. I understood the analogy of The River, appreciated the story of Ama-Woya, and underlined several statement that I thought were profound, but by the last third of the book, it was all starting to feel a bit contrived and cliché. I wanted to witness the characters learning these life lessons rather than simply read the summary of what they had learned. This would have increased the book’s impact for me.
Thomas Nelson Publishers sent me a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for this honest review.