Can’t say how many times I have anticipated the opening of a review with the words, “This is really an unusual book.” For all the predictable conventions of storytelling, I am still often surprised by the unexpected turns a writer’s story takes. I don’t mean turns of plot, because we expect that in a novel. They are, in fact, a convention of the form. A novel would not be a novel without them.
What I mean is the presence or absence of conventions so out of the ordinary and unusual, you feel like your GPS has purposely taken you someplace you never intended to go, and could not find on your own if you tried. This happened to me with this novel.
Blue Heaven is a prequel, preceding in time Wyman’s earlier High Country (reviewed here a while ago). It introduces in its later chapters a character who is at the center of High Country, and is the link between them. Blue Heaven takes place during the 1910s to 1940s. High Country unfolds in the years that followed.
While Blue Heaven is set in the Swan range north of Missoula in Montana, High Country follows its characters southward to California’s High Sierras. Both novels are about wilderness packers and the mystique of being in the mountains, especially at high elevations, over passes, and along watersheds in hard to access back country.