Review

In the Heart of the Canyon

by Elisabeth Hyde

JT Maroney has guided raft tours down the Colorado River 124
times. His 125th trip will be the one he never forgets, although he
has no way of knowing that as his passengers begin to gather at the
start of their journey, along with his seasoned assistant guides,
Dixie and Abo. JT finds nothing remarkable in this set of
clients…yet.

He is already well acquainted with one couple. Ruth and Lloyd
Frankel are from Illinois. They are in their 70s now, but have been
down the Colorado many times, sometimes with JT as their guide.
Their river trips have been a unifying, grounding and spiritual
experience for them over their married years --- a touchstone
neither would willingly give up. However, Ruth is well aware that
this will be their last rafting trip. Lloyd is exhibiting signs of
Alzheimer's disease. Although his doctor gave the okay for him to
take the trip, Ruth knows bringing him is risky. She also realizes
that their age alone will make for a challenging journey, but
little does she know the test that is in store for both of
them.

Amy is 17 years old and traveling with her mother, Susan. Theirs
is a relationship fraught with emotions. Amy is hyper-conscious of
being overweight (in her journal pages, which weave through the
chapters, she dubs herself "FAT GIRL"). She is positive that she is
a disappointment to her mom, with some validity. Susan has high
hopes that this trip will help mend her troubled relationship with
the daughter she loves but doesn't understand.

Jill and Mark Compson are another pair of rafters with a
powder-keg relationship. They travel with their young sons, whose
shenanigans often add to the tensions of their marriage. The
couple's problems are laid bare during the trip as Jill gains a new
perspective on her husband.

Another married couple, Mitchell and Lena, add to the group's
frictions. Mitchell is an historian and researcher who often feels
the need to elbow JT out of the way in order to try to lead the
trip himself. Lena is a bit of an unknown quantity, overshadowed by
her outspoken husband.

Two single clients are also on the rafting trip. Both are
recovering from recently broken relationships. Peter is in his 20s
and smarting from having his girlfriend leave him. He is instantly
enamored with assistant guide Dixie. Evelyn is a Harvard professor
who doesn't fit in well with the others despite great effort, and
nurses a terrible loneliness for her ex.

As their journey begins, new relationships start to form and old
ones are seen in a new light. An unexpected newcomer joins the
group along the way, unleashing even more conflicts as well as
joyful reactions and humorous scenes. JT's feeling that this 125th
trip is just another journey down the Colorado River changes as his
group experiences one extraordinary disaster after another, causing
him to wonder what his own future might hold.

IN THE HEART OF THE CANYON works well as a study of group and
individual reactions and interactions during unique internal and
external conflicts. In addition, the rafting trip makes for a
thrilling ride of a story. A stunning scene uncovering one rafter's
predicament came as a complete surprise, although plentiful clues
are in plain view in hindsight. How much did I love this book? I
couldn't resist gulping it down in two sittings, oblivious to my
own real life (yeah, sorry about that frozen pizza dinner,
honey…but I was busy rafting down the Colorado River). A
huge, enthusiastic thumbs-up for this riveting page-turner, which
will definitely be high up on my "Best of 2009" list.

Reviewed by Terry Miller Shannon (terryms2001@yahoo.com) on January 22, 2011

In the Heart of the Canyon
by Elisabeth Hyde

  • Publication Date: July 14, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf
  • ISBN-10: 0307263673
  • ISBN-13: 9780307263674