David Miller, a passionate and clueless young poet, flees modern life, intending to spend the winter holed up in a rustic cabin like a mountain man. He runs into a friend from the past. Quanah Parker Running Bear is a difficult man full of inappropriate longings, with much to teach a young poet about life and the lust for warm toes.
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars
This quick novella is fun to read and entertaining, yet ultimately disappointing since it never fully comes alive. The characters and plot itself feel truncated, as if the story was meant to be much longer but got cut down to the bare minimum and leaves out a lot of detail and resolution. It’s fun to read, but never lives up to the promise of the blurb and each situation brought up is subsequently dropped almost immediately. There are easy solutions and forgettable problems that make up the tension and the romantic relationship is a given from early on so really this will appeal to fans of the author the most.
The story begins with David Miller getting drunk the night his first book of poetry is published. Along the way he has a sexual encounter that is photographed and sent the dean of the college David works at. This flimsy excuse is enough to get David suspended on morality charges and send the young poet fleeing to the woods and his grandfather’s dilapated cabin in rural Idaho. While there he reconnects with an old childhood friend and builds a new life for himself.
The plot itself is rather simplistic and involves setting up various situations only to drop them. David is suspended from school but this is never a big issue since he runs away to the cabin for the winter. David isn’t a mountain man but that’s ok since his childhood friend, Quanah Parker, is there to save him. David doesn’t have any money or a way to really make money but that’s ok since he can still buy a bunch of expensive tools, toys, food, and hot tubs anyway. David is insecure over his relationship with Quanah Parker when an ex shows up but no worries, the ex disappears almost immediately.
This kind of set up and forget theme hallmarks the story in all ways. It shows that the plot is almost no plot. David wanders up to rural Idaho and from there, Quanah Parker decides they’re soul mates and that’s that. This is frustrating since the story continually introduces new elements and issues only to drop them, so readers shouldn’t get attached to the story or invest in the issues at all. Everything from David’s insecurity to the sexual toe fetish are mentioned but then go nowhere so the entire story feels superficial and unnecessary. Why are all these issues brought up but never resolved? It makes the story feel like it’s just marking time and wasting space to just .. fill something.
Part of this is the frustration with the romantic relationship. Quanah Parker – who is always referred to with his whole name, a definite annoyance – shows up to save David from his inepititude and they’re just together forever now. There is no question of will they stay together or won’t they. They just immediately do. The blurb teases about a foot fetish and there are a few comments about this playing into their sex life but it’s all off page and so minor that I didn’t notice until I read the blurb again and realized it was supposed to be a main theme. The sexual foot fetish, like everything else, is not very important and ultimately forgettable.
While the pacing is quick, writing light and crisp, the entire story feels too empty and without focus to really grab my attention. The continual introduction of issues only to ignore them bothered me and made me disconnect more and more from the story when I realized there never would be satisfying resolutions to any of the problems. On the one hand the story waves a magic wand and all is well again while it also just ignores the problem. This is not a type of conclusion that I particularly like so reader reaction may vary depending on what you prefer.
Overall this is an ok read with some good elements and a lot of potential if the story had stuck to one focus instead of meandering in several different directions. I didn’t hate it and it’s entertaining to read so see for yourself.
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