Review

Abandon

by Blake Crouch

It has been far too long since we have been blessed with a novel
from Blake Crouch. His last book, LOCKED DOORS, remains a favorite,
and I hope that one day he resolves some of the issues he left
dangling in such a tantalizing manner at the end of that work.
ABANDON, his latest, is not quite like anything you’ve read;
it’s one of those books that almost instantly puts you in the
mind of a classic.

The title refers to a fatefully named isolated Colorado mining
town that lost its entire population for reasons unknown on
Christmas Day in 1893. Abandon was a land-locked Mary
Celeste
: meals were found half-eaten at the table, Christmas
presents either half-unwrapped or still under the tree, doors ajar
and home fires unattended. The only thing missing were bodies; none
of the townsfolk were ever discovered. What Crouch does here ---
and masterfully --- is to take the story along two tracks, one in
the past and one in the present.

The tale of Abandon’s past slowly and painstakingly
reveals the events leading up to the disappearance of the
townspeople and the reasons for it. The story of its present
concerns an expedition to the isolated ghost town for the purpose
of learning, once and for all, what occurred. The current party of
the present includes Lawrence Kendall, a history professor, and
Abigail Foster, his journalist daughter, who have not seen each
other in 26 years; a married couple consisting of a psychic and a
paranormal photographer who are accompanied by the ever-present
specter of grief; and two back-country guides, both of whom have
secret, and diverse, agendas.

The way into and out of Abandon consists of a 17-mile journey on
foot through dark and dangerous territory where even the most
minimal of mistakes are unforgiving. The party has barely settled
into Abandon, however, when an early snowstorm descends upon the
town, bringing with it something much, much worse. As it happens,
one of the elements that ultimately sets off the ruin of Abandon
almost a century before is still present in the area, and its
attraction has drawn to the city a dangerous, violent element that
under no circumstances will be denied. As the secret history of
Abandon is slowly revealed in the thoughts, words and dark deeds of
the original inhabitants, the modern-day explorers, and their dark
pursuers, find themselves slowly swallowed up by the fever that
resulted in the consummation of the town so many years before.

ABANDON is in many ways two separate works of past and present
seamlessly melded together into a single novel that demands to be
read in one sitting, so you can better appreciate the beauty of
Crouch’s storytelling. The portion of the book that concerns
what happened to the town in the days leading up to its ultimate
demise is especially compelling; Crouch’s penchant for the
use of colloquial speech contemporary with the time and place is
worth the price of admission all by itself, while the climactic
ending, in our era, is an ironic twist upon every 1950s Saturday
morning television western ever made. Has it been far too long
since Crouch’s last book? Yes. But it has been well worth the
wait to be able to read this outstanding novel.

Reviewed by Joe Hartlaub on December 22, 2010

Abandon
by Blake Crouch

  • Publication Date: July 7, 2009
  • Genres: Fiction, Thriller
  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Minotaur Books
  • ISBN-10: 0312537409
  • ISBN-13: 9780312537401