Title: Out in the Backwoods
Author: G.P. Keith
Length: 60 pdf pages
Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Genre: m/m contemporary
In an effort to recapture the joy of his childhood Christmases, Matt leaves Toronto for a holiday in the interior of British Columbia. But citified Matt has forgotten his winter survival skills, and when he totals his car on a country road during sudden white-out conditions, it takes a rugged backwoodsman named Jens to rescue him. In Jens’s company, Matt starts thinking all sorts of romantic things about the beauties of the simple life… then an accident on the trapping line turns the tables and puts Jens’s life in danger. Matt must pit his new wilderness skills against wolves and deep snow to save his friend and discover whether he really has the fortitude to live out in the backwoods.
Parts of this story really resonated with me and struck a chord, I think in large part, because of the way I grew up. On the other hand there were practical sides to me that got a bit frustrated at times. Matt is kind of a grumpy whiner, he’s not happy with his life, with his job, where he lives, his life is kind of blah despite having a good job, lots of money and a nice place. His whining finally triggers his friend to say that if winter was so much better in central BC where he was a child, then go for a visit. Surprisingly he takes her up on it and makes plans to spend two weeks in his old hometown. However, having been there, done that (although I was not nostalgic for the old life), he finds you really can’t go home again.
The people are not as welcoming as he expected and he wonders if the motel clerk’s snotty attitude is because she figured out he’s gay, the waitress is not your friendly type and he can’t find any of the names he remembers from school in the phone book. However he loves the snow and the white and the cold and on a drive about manages to ditch his car in a storm and is rescued by “mountain man” Jens who drags him back to his cabin. The more time he spends with Jens in the cabin stranded by the storm, the more he wonders if city life is really for him.
I liked the slow development, how Matt comes to look at his life differently, to reevaluate his life and what he wants and how with no TV or phone (save for a few quick calls on his cell before it dies) they spend time talking as he recovers from his injuries. It wasn’t as if Jens lived WAY out in the woods, he was only eight miles from town. I grew up eight miles from town, but I did find it odd that he had no car, but I guess. He has no electricity, no plumbing and you find out he lived in this cabin with a man for 25 years who died a year ago.
So what were my issues? Well, Matt just leaves his car wherever it crashed and he never bothers to have anyone go to the hotel to fetch his stuff, even when people with vehicles eventually make it through the snow, nor does he seem interested in getting it. Wouldn’t the hotel be putting out a call to the police saying their recent guest has vanished (in a small town, trust me, they’d notice). Eventually when people come by they do mention the car, but those little things niggled at the bit inside of me that said he should have taken care of that. You also only get Matt’s perspective, you only know what Jens tells him, so he was a bit of an enigma at times, although he’s quite forthcoming with Matt about how he got there.
However the book does a great job of describing the snow, the whiteness and Matt’s absolute joy at being back in that environment. You can feel him just kind of “unwinding” from his life in Toronto. So I think if you can ignore the little niggles about the fact that no locals noticed a car in the ditch, or that he was missing, it’s a gentle story about two men who find each other, neither one really realizing they were looking. So there’s not a lot of conflict, beyond nature and one jerky neighbour, but if you’re in the mood for something with a lot of ambiance and gives you a taste for Canadian winter in rather primitive (to most of us) conditions, it’s a good choice.