When an author of Catherine Ryan Hyde’s stature is giving away free books, how is a bookaholic like me to refuse? I won an advanced reader copy of Hyde’s book Leaving Blythe River (releasing June 4, 2016, from Lake Union Publishing) through the Facebook group Reader’s Coffeehouse.
With 30 published titles to her name, Hyde excels at creating compelling characters. Leaving Blythe River focuses on 17-year-old Ethan, a teenager whose small stature and nervous disposition has made him not just the butt of his friends’ jokes but his athletic parents’, too. Ethan’s world shifts when he discovers his father is not the hero he thought he was. Hyde heaps even more tension on Ethan as his parents divorce and his maternal grandparents need care, calling his mother away. Before he knows what happened, he finds himself in a small cabin with his father in the foothills of the Blythe River Range. When Ethan’s father disappears on a run through the mountains and the local rangers abandon their search, Ethan must rely on three surly neighbors to help him try to find the man he hates.
Leaving Blythe River gives readers plenty of action with grizzly encounters, flooded river crossings, and precarious trail riding. The standouts in this book, though, are really the characters. Ethan’s neighbors teach him not only how to survive in the harsh mountainous terrain but how to navigate life. Sam, owner of Friendly Sam’s Pack Service, goes out of his way to help a kid he doesn’t know, expecting nothing in return. Jone is a 70ish widower who scares even the grizzly bears but has a soft spot for Ethan. The foursome is rounded out by Marcus, a 30-something guy who came to the mountains to escape but found little of what he was hoping for there. Each of these side characters brings a certain flavor to the book, without which, the story would be just a plain broth.
Hyde’s book is a fast read with plenty of moments as deep as the Blythe River after a rain storm.