I usually wait to write about a book until we’re closer to its publication date, but in this case I just can’t wait. The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac, by Sharma Shields, is a debut novel by a Spokane, Washington author coming out in January 2015 from Henry Holt.
Full disclosure: I worked with Sharma in a bookstore many moons ago, before she went off to Montana to get her MFA, but my connection with her, while it made me pick up the book, is not what made the book impossible to put down. For one, it is lovely to see a debut novel lauded by authors I also love. Fellow Spokane author Jess Walter called it “Lovely, twisted, and wry,” while Stewart O’Nan, one of my personal favorites, said, “Sharma Shields dares us to follow her through the twisted mazes of her dark rides, tantalizing us with just enough shocks so that when we come out the other side, we immediately want to go again.”
I finished this book out of breath,
crying and gasping.
The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac begins with a family idyll. Eli Roebuck is nine years old when he watches as his mother welcomes a Sasquatch (whom she introduces as Mr. Krantz), feeds him biscuits (which he devours messily), then grabs her suitcase and leaves Eli and his father behind to be with her mythical man of the woods. Each chapter flips forward in time as Eli grows older, marries, has a daughter, divorces, remarries and has another daughter. But while life carries on for Eli, he never stops searching for his mother and Mr. Krantz.
Shields weaves a story rife with myth and mystery but whose core is about the classic themes of literature: family, connection, obsession and the unpredictability of life. The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac is, as Stewart O’Nan, points out, a twisted maze and a dark ride. What blew me away, though, was the moments of insight and wit and emotional depth that grounded its strangeness. I finished this book out of breath, crying and gasping. A book hasn’t surprised and touched me this deeply in a long time. Which is why The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac is truly the book I would encourage everyone to consider when planning next year’s book-group reading. Not just to give a debut novelist a boost, but to give yourselves a book to remember, reread, and talk about again and again. This book is just that good.