Wilderness - Lance Weller

So I have finished the ten page prologue. And it is beautiful. So beautiful.

There is much to think about already in these few paragraphs. Jane is living in an assisted living facility and opportunities to interrelate with others are rare. Her main contact is with Michael, the nurse who makes the daily rounds on a tight schedule. We come to understand that he stops in only once a day, because at breakfast time, they are discussing what she wants for dinner, peas or corn, as he rummages through her refrigerator, so he can strategically place the peas where she can identify them. We discover that Jane has been blind since the age of five when she lost her eyes, along with a couple of fingers, to frostbite.

Jane cannot see that it snowed during the night, but she knows that it did, and Michael confirms it, acknowledging that her other senses are working fine. The snow event has caused Jane to think back, and she begins reminiscing, telling Michael of a time when it was "colder than cold," but Michael is forced to interrupt her. He must be away, but he promises to come back in the afternoon if he can. He waits for a response, but Jane is done talking.

She is left to her thoughts: of her husband, a whaler who had died fifty years ago; her first father and first mother, murdered on a mountain top, leaving her alone in the snow to be found by her second father and his dog, her "warm thoughts of the old man who'd saved her from the cold, and fed her hunger with a meat that made him weep to cook;" and of her third father "who adopted her and taught her what she'd need to know to survive in a sighted world -- arithmetic and how an apple feels when ripe and sweet and how the quality of light differs by season and temperature -- and who was hanged by the neck until dead from the branches of a black cottonwood on the banks of the Little Sugar Creek by a man named Farley for the simple reason that he was a black man with a white wife."

"The coffee grows cold. Ice slowly scales the window beside her . . . all the long afternoon, Jane . . . barely moves. The widow of a fisherman, she is well used to waiting. She sits . . .Now, beside the window, Jane Dao-Ming is bathed in soft, blue winterlight that smoothes the lines from her face so that, sitting there just so, she looks just a little like the girl she was when she was young. . . . Staring out the window and seeing nothing but remembering everything. She can conjure the old man, the old soldier, from her memory whenever she wants.. For her, he never died. An old man rocking slowly, slowly rocking, watching the gray Pacific rise and fall. And rise again."

I can tell already that there are great stories here, and my curiosity is roused to know more, and the descriptions enable my senses to vividly imagine the scenes, and there were certain phrasings which were so poetic that I stopped to read them again. And again.

But can I continue? I already know the dog dies. I usually make it a point to never read a book where I know that in advance. Never read Old Yeller, or Cujo, or Marley and Me. (Loved Gordon Korman's "No More Dead Dogs.)

I make the decision to leave the book unread.

And yet . . . The prologue haunts me. Maybe the book is good enough that it can surmount my misgivings.. After checking out some reader reviews, i learn that the favorable responses are overwhelming. So now, I am undecided. This book goes to the edge of the coffee table for now while I do some light reading and wait until I have become psychologically strong enough to tackle what promises to be an epic adventure with huge emotional impact.

Based on the beauty of the prologue, the book earns four stars from me.