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In the Heart of the Canyon Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Jul 14 2009

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31 of 32 people found the following review helpful
A Mystery, But Not A Mystery Writer July 14 2009
By John Henry - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Elizabeth Hyde is a mystery writer, though not in the conventional sense. Even when writing what is in plot a murder mystery - her book from two years ago, The Abortionist's Daughter -- her mysteries are what a Victorian would call mysteries of the heart, attempts to understand what lies at the core of one or more of her characters. In the Heart of the Canyon is no exception. This time she has produced an adventure story about a float trip through the Grand Canyon of the Colorado River by 12 travelers of various ages and stations and their 3 guides. Here there are two mysteries. One is that of discovering which character will prove to be central to the story. Over the 13 day trip of 225 miles this mystery slowly becomes manageable, as a few characters are set aside and relationships among many of the others are disclosed. In then end, when there are only two possibilities left, the story quite abruptly comes together as the central character and that character's mystery becomes the topic of attention for all of the adults in the group.

Ms. Hyde's work throughout is deft. The prose is clean and direct, a pleasure to read, always in the sweet spot between corpulent and sinewy. At the same time the prose is anything but uniform. Lazing down the River, it is slow; in the rapids that define the River, it is muscular; at stops along the shore, it takes the occasionally chattery directness of people thrown together in unexpected circumstances. All the characters are nicely fleshed out even when not particularly important for the plot, with the result that, as the story moves forward, even those being set aside are not neglected. And the whole is propelled, not by the River, but by a stray dog named Blender, a MacGuffin that would make Hitchcock smile.

A careful reader of Ms. Hyde's fiction would note that, starting with a still earlier book, Crazy as Chocolate, her ability to handle multiple characters has grown, while she has maintained the very high quality and clarity of her prose. This is no small achievement. Such a reader might also note a continuity of theme. However, to discuss such would be to give away the mystery In the Heart of the River. It would be far better for the reader to take the journey and enjoy the time getting there.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Running the Grand Canyon with a "ship of fools." July 26 2009
By Elizabeth Scott-graham - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Having taken four two week raft trips down the Grand Canyon over the years this book rings absolutely true. While the Canyon is about the rocks, the starry skies, the geology, and of course the river in all its guises, a raft trip away from phones, email, etc. leaves you with a cast of characters with whom you have to live for two weeks.

The characters in this book are a metaphor for all the folks we run into in real life. Elisabeth Hyde captures the variety of passengers with such exactitude that I could believe she had been on each and every one of my trips.

One of the most fun things on the trip is listening to the guides tell all kinds of stories about past nightmare passengers and events. But I can guarantee that the ending to this story will hopefully not be in the story list of any guide. It is a total surprise as are the character's response to this unexpected event.

I found it a-no-put-down book.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
A pleasant ride downriver Aug. 10 2009
By Jon Hunt - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There's something initially unappealing about being together with a group of total strangers for two weeks, adventures notwithstanding. But Elisabeth Hyde has managed to connect the dots of a disparate group of people attempting the ride of their collective lives while simultaneously working out their peccadillos on a daily basis. The pretense is fun, the characters believable and the author's own experiences weigh in nicely.

The most normal people that appear in "In the Heart of the Canyon" seem to be the tour guides. They have to, I suppose, to give an air of credulity...after all, they're in charge of the show and the others are tagging along for the fun of it. The dozen guests are quirky enough to keep the book flowing, although the narrative sometimes gets a little cheesy. Most of the story is told off the river, of course, so the collective psyches have a chance to settle in and be explored. There are a few nice plot twists and while "In the Heart of the Canyon" never gets much past the conversational level, it's still a good read and I recommend it.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Ships of Fools Sept. 12 2009
By K. L. Cotugno - Published on
Format: Hardcover
Better than average beach read due to the author's obvious passion for river rafting. Instead of presenting a mystery, Hyde chooses wisely to make the plot contingent upon her well defined characters and the effect the experience has on their lives. The characters, including the trip leader, are all in transition and their reasons for taking this trip are as varied as they are. Although there are many characters present, only a few are given interior lives which tightens the action and makes the Grand Canyon the real star. Several set pieces are very well described, and I must admit I was curious and found that by Googling the various rapids, I was able to experience these rides vicariously.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
fun read Feb. 1 2010
By book lover - Published on
Format: Hardcover
I enjoyed this book, more than I expected to. I was not impressed with The Abortionist's Daughter (unbelievable characters acting in unbelievable ways, and way too scripted), and I have no interest in rafting, but I read a strongly positive review of this book and decided to give it a try. I feared it might be too much adventure, or too "literary" (boring, not easy to get into, characters I couldn't identify with, self-conscious etc), but I was hooked from the start. Several points of view, more about the people on the raft trip than the actual adventure, although there was enough of that to give me a real sense of the river (and confirm my sense that it's not a sport for me). The ending was a bit Hallmark (smaltzy, upbeat) but I truly enjoyed the ride (no pun intended) and found myself drawn back to the book every time I had to put it down. Enjoyed it enough to recommend to friends.