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Monday, May 4, 2015

The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac: A Novel by Sharma Shields

The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac opens in 1943 when nine-year-old Eli Robuck is abandoned by his mother who willing walks out of his life and into the woods with "Mr. Krantz",  a giant, hairy stranger who may or may not be Sasquatch. From this haunting scene the novel builds in a series of scenes, like faded snapshots in an old album, to tell the story of Eli's lifelong obsession.

Sharma Shields paces her story perfectly, each chapter could easily stand on its own as a short story, but each also adds to a greater understanding not only of Eli but the lives of those around him. Eli, his family, and their various monsters are all fascinating. Shields writes so strongly we can not doubt the conviction of her characters, but she writes of things so strange we find ourselves doubting our own understanding of a world we thought we knew.

There are more monsters than a single hairy beast contained in these pages and a merging of the familiar and the strange that is reminiscent of the best writing of Ray Bradbury. Shields can, in a single sentence, widen the world and invite the reader in. Near the end of the novel, she opens a chapter focused on one of Eli's daughters:

"On the way to one of her three weekly therapy appointments, Ginger hit a unicorn with her car."

The Sasquatch Hunter's Almanac is a dark story made of stories, of monsters sighted in dim light and never forgotten. It is a walk in the dark woods that does not promise a safe return but perhaps something better and more valuable, an understanding of our own, often beastly nature.

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