The Rope: An Anna Pigeon Novel Hardcover – Jan 17 2012
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"We come to see that Baker has written, here as elsewhere, a book of associations...in which he celebrates the superfluous details of life....He is an expert craftsman...["The Anthologist"] is a testament to -- indeed an anthology of -- moments when poetry and life touch against each other....[Baker's work] is a rare example of affectionate art, of brilliant writing that manages to collect and display the odds and ends of existence in a way that makes the reader like it and him." -- Stephen Abell, "The Times Literary Supplement" (London) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
"ANOTHER AWESOME WINNER FOR BARR…
[Anna Pigeon's] legion of loyal fans can find out how her story began."
It's 1995. Fresh off the bus from New York City, a broken-hearted 35-year-old named Anna Pigeon takes her first job as a park employee: a decidedly unglamorous, seasonal stint at the Glen Canyon National Recreational Area. On her day off, she goes hiking alone in the park―never to return. Her co-workers assume she's moved on since her cabin is cleaned out. But when Anna wakes up―trapped at the bottom of a well, naked, with no supplies and no memory of how she got there―she must draw upon all of her strength, courage, and skill to survive. Because whoever set Anna's trap isn't through with her yet…
"EXCITING…takes readers where they've wanted to go for years―to Anna's beginnings as a park ranger.…Misdirection and a rising body count ratchet up the tension."―Publishers Weekly--This text refers to the Mass Market Paperback edition. See all Product Description
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The truth is far different. Anna is lying naked, her head aching from a blow and one arm dislocated, at the bottom of a "jar" -- a smooth-sided canyon that can only be accessed or escaped by a ladder that Anna doesn't have. As the sun beats down, she finds what appears to be a miracle -- a canteen containing water. Anna drinks it and sleeps -- the water was drugged. When she wakes, she finds the word "whore" carved into the flesh of her thigh.
How Anna escapes her prison and unravels the clues to find the identity of her assailant form the basis for a mystery that keeps the reader's interest, whether a first-timer to the series or a fan who's read all of the Pigeon books. Going back to the beginning, The Rope establishes Anna's self-reliant personality and the ways it is tested by her ordeal in the desert and her dealings with others. Supporting characters are also well-defined, as well as details about the not-so-glamorous life of a park ranger. It's a good read.
The plot spools out with Anna gradually figuring out what happened and taking action. Like all Anna Pigeon books this one is layered with National Park details, distinctive characters, and hard-earned philosophy. It's 1995, a time when homosexual National Park employees like Anna's roommate Jenny, an eventual friend and ally, have to stay fairly close to their closets. My favorite series character, Anna's insightful, unshakable sister Molly, is on hand as the voice of sophisticated composure, mostly residing in Anna's brain. This is not my favorite Anna Pigeon mystery, for me nothing can beat Track of the Cat or Blind Descent, but there's a renewed freshness I've been missing from the later books in the series.
"The Rope" is a prequel to all the prior books in the Anna Pigeon series. I have followed this series since the beginning and it's interesting to see young Anna learning "the ropes" about being a park ranger since she is usually the one in charge and teaching others. Besides Anna, her roommate Jenny is the most interesting and only other likeable character in the book. Jenny is strong, but kind, and both her physical and emotional strength becomes an inspiration to Anna later in the book. Unfortunately, almost all of the other characters in the book are repulsive and downright evil, which doesn't make for an enjoyable read. It is an intense and suspenseful story, but the whole book is so dark, there are times it's hard to keep reading because of what Anna is going through.
The book is well-written and has all the usual details expected from the author that make the setting come alive. One enjoyable part is how a young stray skunk fits into the story. In addition, the new character Jenny adds some entertaining and touching moments to the book. The excellent writing and my affection for the character of Anna motivated me to stick with it, but this just isn't the type of book I enjoy reading. Some of Barr's later books in this series are also very dark, but I had hoped this prequel would bring a lighter tone. That is definitely not the case and for me, greatly detracted from what could have been a great book.
I have been a huge fan of Nevada Barr's Anna Pigeon novels since Track of the Cat was released in 1993. I have enjoyed the way Anna continues to grow as a character, generally doesn't do stupid stuff (a common failing of female heroines, sad to say) and takes care of herself without having to be rescued. That the stories take place in the USA's national parks is an added bonus, and I especially enjoy reading about parks where I have been. Barr has a realistic view of the natural world and the visitors to the parks. It is sometimes a little jarring-- I will certainly never look at Lake Powell in Arizona the same way after reading about Anna's adventures with the Fecal Queen, cleaning the beaches at Glen Canyon National Park.
In The Rope, Nevada Barr goes back in time to before Anna became a ranger, a summer when she is serving as a seasonal worker at Lake Powell to escape the emptiness that has become her life in New York. Her beloved husband, Zach, has recently died and her world, so recently fulfilled with a job as stage manager for an off Broadway theater, has become meaningless. She wants to bury herself in hard, physical labor, completely away from the artificial canyons and towers of New York City so she spends her days scooping poop in the natural canyons and towers of Arizona.
When we first encounter Anna in this book, she is awakening at the bottom of a sheer hole in sandstone, naked, with a dislocated shoulder, a painful bump on her head and no memory of how she got there. The only thing she knows for sure is that someone else is involved in her captivity because there is a word carved in her upper thigh, a word she knows she did not put there. Before too long, she discovers that she shares her space with a dead body, and her terror increases.
This is not the Anna Pigeon that we have always known. She's a tenderfoot, unwise in the ways of desert survival, unknowing about backwoods hiking techniques. She's woefully out of shape and completely unprepared for the ordeal ahead of her. What she does have, however, is the one thing she thought she didn't care about anymore-- she wants to live.
Blessed with an eye for detail and incredible mental organization, as well as an uncanny ability to read people, thanks to years of watching actors and their audiences, Anna sets about changing herself from a martyred victim to a survivor. We already know she lives since this is a prequel to all of the other novels about her, but in this book she more than survives, she transforms herself.
I found this book impossible to put down. If you are already a fan of Anna Pigeon, you will love this book. If you haven't met her yet, this would be a good book to start with.