Can You Feel It?


As of late, my go-to book recommendation for people who ask, and sometimes for those who don’t, has been Touch by Alexi Zentner. There are a couple of different reasons why I suggest this book at every chance: 1) Zentner writes beautifully, lyrically, wonderfully.  2) As a debut writer, he didn’t receive much publicity and this book needs to be read.  3) He uses a wendigo in his story.  What’s not to love?

Touch is the story of Stephen Boucher who returns home to the gold boomtown gone bust of Sawgamet.  Within the frame of Stephen’s homecoming, Zentner places the story of Stephen’s grandfather, Jeannot, when he started the town and Jeannot’s return to the town when Stephen was eleven-years-old.

Zentner explores stories told within families and in culture.  Stephen’s family mythology focuses on his father and grandfather, men he describes as “like gods among the forest, a sort of living folklore.” Stephen reveres his grandfather and father as men who achieved great things because of their physical prowess.  Jeannot starts a town because of his ability to withstand suffering more than others; Pierre, Jeannot’s son, manages lumberjacks and a lumber mill with a mangled hand and dies trying to save his daughter.  Stephen tells readers Jeannot’s and Pierre’s stories so we can worship with him.

Zentner combines Stephen’s family stories with visitations of mythical creatures from the North Woods such as wehtikos (wendigos or cannibals who became monsters), qallupilluits (sea witches), adlets (blood-suckers), golden caribou, and ijiraits (shape shifters).  These creatures are never seen in town, only in the woods, where the unknown can be found along with the spirit of Stephen’s long-dead grandmother.

Although it sounds like there are a lot of fantastical creatures in the story, this isn’t a fantasy tale.  At the heart of Stephen’s mythology is admiration and love and a desire to know his grandfather and father.

Barazers, what books do you recommend to people?