*I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*
Author: Gil Adamson
Publisher: House of Anansi
Publication Date: May 12, 2022
Synopsis from Goodreads:
November 1917. William Moreland is in mid-flight. After nearly twenty years, the notorious thief, known as the Ridgerunner, has returned. Moving through the Rocky Mountains and across the border to Montana, the solitary drifter, impoverished in means and aged beyond his years, is also a widower and a father. And he is determined to steal enough money to secure his son’s future.
Twelve-year-old Jack Boulton has been left in the care of Sister Beatrice, a formidable nun who keeps him in cloistered seclusion in her grand old house. Though he knows his father is coming for him, the boy longs to return to his family’s cabin, deep in the woods. When Jack finally breaks free, he takes with him something the nun is determined to get back — at any cost.
With a touch of the sinister, infused with the wild, and set in the era of World War I, Ridgerunner is a sweeping novel that is both a coming of age and a literary work portraying the harsh realities of early 20th-Century Canada. Although this book is the follow up to Adamson’s The Outlander, I truly didn’t realize this book had a preceding story until I sat down to write the review. Ridgerunner serves to stand alone or as part of this duology. It is complete in itself and, in my opinion, requires no further embellishment as it was outstanding as is.
William Moreland and his son Jack lost nearly everything with the loss of wife any mother, Mary. William leaves behind his son, in the care of a nun he hopes will protect him, and leaves to do whatever he can to make sure he leaves his son with enough money to survive, and then some. Jack, left alone with the unusual and discomfiting nun, Sister Beatrice, is thrown out of the natural and wild life with his family in the wilderness and falls straight into the loud, unpredictable, and unfamiliarity of civilization. When Jack can stand it no longer, he takes matters into his own hands and escapes back to the place he came from, hopefully hidden and untraceable in the wilderness.
Sister Beatrice is the most intriguing, most sinister, and most forlorn part of the book. Her tale is so shocking and tragic that, though only a minute part of the book, she actually is a total standout for me. I would love a book simply about her history and how she ended up here. Her presence injects this book with an element of fear and unknown. She is chaotic and her instability strikes fear into 12-year-old Jack’s heart, and thus the reader’s also. She is the antagonist to Jack and threatens to take away all that he has left to hold dear.
Jack, too, is quite the fascinating character. A boy of preteen age, he has seen more than most of his age, and although he is naive and inexperienced, he knows enough to strike out on his own and pursue the path of familiarity, even if it means living a sequestered and isolated life. For him, the woods and the absence of humanity is freedom, is home, and there is nowhere he’d rather be. He’s got a lot to learn, but there are a few key players in his life who open their hearts to aid him in any small way.
Overall, a really enjoyable read, and also incredibly satisfying to reflect upon. This was shortlisted for the Giller in 2020 and though it didn’t win, it’s an excellent and essentially Canadian story.