A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun

Bleak, depressing. 

Synopsis of A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain by Adrianne Harun: In isolated British Columbia, girls, mostly native, are vanishing from the sides of a notorious highway. Leo Kreutzer and his four friends are barely touched by these disappearances—until a series of mysterious and troublesome outsiders come to town. Then it seems as if the devil himself has appeared among them.

In this intoxicatingly lush debut novel, Adrianne Harun weaves together folklore, mythology, and elements of magical realism to create a compelling and unsettling portrait of life in a dead-end town. A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is atmospheric and evocative of place and a group of people, much in the way that Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones conjures the South, or Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children provides a glimpse of the Las Vegas underworld: kids left to fend for themselves in a broken world—rendered with grit and poetry in equal measure.

My two cents
Inspired by real-life events of disappearing native girls in an isolated rural town in British Columbia, this novel weaves together elements of a hard-up rural life and native American folklore to tell the violent and rather hopeless lives of young folk.

I had a hard time with this novel -- like I missed something and I'm not "cool" enough to get it (whatever it is). I will get into the downside later because there were many elements of the book that I did enjoy:

The premise of the book, which is inspired by real-life events that Harun wanted to bring attention to. I think it's a beautiful tribute. Harun explains this in her reading guide:
Over the last four decades, a great many girls and women have gone missing and/or been found murdered along Highway 16 in northern British Columbia. Until very recently, those disappearances and killing have gone unsolved and largely uninvestigated as well, it seems. I knew I wanted to write about the murders and disappearances of First Nation women along the Highway of Tears, but I’m a lousy journalist – truly can’t stick to the facts for the life of me – and the idea of co-opting a real family’s tragedy for fiction seemed abhorrent to me. I really struggled to find a way into the story.
The characters. There are some very interesting characters in this. With the introduction of the young folk in the beginning felt hopeful. But it was also quite disturbing to read about their poverty-stricken lives, their dead-end jobs, the rampant alcoholism and violence.
  • The narrator, Leo Kreutzer, who apparently has more to him than meets the eye, took some time to grow on me.
  • I found the pale-skinned, mysterious, and spunky Hana Swann really intriguing (and the nod to folklore, well done!) but her character never really went anywhere and she sort of just disappeared! 
  • I enjoyed the character of the charismatic sleight of hand man Kevin Seven. 
  • There is a surprise which I found totally endearing and saw a sign of hopefulness in such a horrible character.

The atmosphere. A dead-end town: if you travel or have ever lived in such towns, you will probably love how the author is able to capture the atmosphere and details of lack, grimness, hopelessness. Tied in with the violence and chaos that the local bullies wreak upon the town, there is a grittiness and bleakness to the entire novel that makes for a disturbing read.

The folklore. Devil's hopscotch, the Snow Woman, Uncle Lud's dreams and pronouncements, and more supernatural happenings ... all make for dramatic, metaphorical, and superstitious explanations of the "evil" that is happening in this small town.

What I struggled with:

Storyline? I love experimental novels, don't get me wrong, but this book was a hodgepodge of individual life stories and of locals in a small town mixed in with lots of local folklore. I couldn't quite grasp the storyline and felt like I was rambling through this and that with no real direction.

Depressing. I don't think I was in a very good mood when I was reading this. I found it utterly depressing -- the violence, the hopelessness despite the youth of the characters. While there are glimmers of hope and the value of friendship and family throughout, I found the novel hard to stomach.

Verdict: A novel that has all the elements of a brilliant read -- except it seemed I wasn't in the right frame of mind reading it. I will be shelving this for the meantime and hope that my re-read bodes for a better experience.

I would recommend this for those who like gritty stories and those who enjoy experimental or innovative novels.

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I received a copy of the book through Penguin.ca's Bloggers and Books Network in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Elizabeth! 

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© guiltless readingMaira Gall