In The Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
The temperature is over 100. The rapids are some of the largest in North America. Water levels are rising. And JT Maroney, veteran river guide, is leading his 125th trip down the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon. For the next two weeks, his 13 passengers – strangers, mostly – will paddle, row, swim, ride the rapids, eat gourmet meals, sleep under the stars, and learn a lot about geology. They’ll learn a lot about each other, too – perhaps more than they want to know. Allegiances form, and likewise dissolve, in the course of an afternoon. JT’s decision on the first day to adopt a stray dog further complicates the group dynamics, leading to a series of fateful mishaps, one of which will alter the course of many lives.
I’ve been putting off writing this review, not because I didn’t like the book, but because I don’t know what to say. I enjoyed this book a lot, but I felt it was unusual in the sense it was like a guide book. This is not a trip I will ever make but I know feel like I have experienced the Grand Canyon and this trip down river, thanks to Elisabeth Hyde.
The novel spans a fortnight and the miles covered on this boating trip. There are 13 passengers and 3 guides. Not all the passengers narrate so we don’t get to know those intimately, but I liked the ones who did. It was interesting to see the friendships form, the people change, and the crazy events that occur. I liked JT most – although I kept forgetting he was a man in his fifties. As I read I pictured him as a 20-something. He was honest, and the way he was written meant you really felt how he was feeling – whether that was elated, tired, or fed-up.
One friendship I liked was Peter and Amy. Peter had had his heart-broken and was hoping to get lucky on the trip. Amy was an obese high-school student who did not get on with her mother. They formed an unlikely friendship, which helps both of them. And I liked their interactions and their comical views of other passengers.
This was a gripping, inviting book. It was well written, and written from experience. The Author’s Note reveals that Hyde has taken this trip many, many times. The descriptions were beautiful, and I felt like I was making the trip as well. There were two unlikely storylines – one of them revealed at the end but that I spotted coming. These made an interesting edition to the book, even if I didn’t really believe them.
Overall, this was an enjoyable book that has left me feeling like I have taken this trip. This is the second Hyde book I have read, and I enjoyed both of them a lot.