October 21, 2012

Review: The Mountain Between Us by Charles Martin

The Mountain Between Us
The Mountain Between Us: A Novel

About the Book:

On a stormy winter night, two strangers wait for a flight at the Salt Lake City airport.  Ashley Knox is an attractive, successful writer, who is flying East for her much anticipated wedding.  Dr. Ben Payne has just wrapped up a medical conference and is also eager to get back East for a slate of surgeries he has scheduled for the following day.   When the last outgoing flight is cancelled due to a broken de-icer and a forthcoming storm, Ben finds a charter plane that can take him around the storm and drop him in Denver to catch a connection.   And when the pilot says the single engine prop plane can fit one more, if barely, Ben offers the seat to Ashley knowing that she needs to get back just as urgently.   And then the unthinkable happens.  The pilot has a heart attack mid-flight and the plane crashes into the High Uintas Wilderness-- one of the largest stretches of harsh and remote land in the United States. 

Ben, who has broken ribs and Ashley, who suffers a terrible leg fracture, along with the pilot's dog, are faced with an incredibly harrowing battle to survive. As the days on the mountains become weeks, their survival become increasingly perilous.  How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever?

My Thoughts:

Well, I finally got this one finished. I must admit it was slow going in the beginning. In fact, I'd say that the first third is very slow. That may seem strange when I'm talking about the parts of the story that involve a plane crash and the first few days after.  But it took me a good while to really get into the story. (I started it, had to put it down and it took me a while to want to pick it up again. I'm glad I did though!) Once Ben and Ashley leave the crash site, perhaps about halfway through or so, it starts picking up. And what an adventure they had! I cannot fathom living each day, each moment actually, having to make life or death decisions all the time. Because each decision they make really means that what they do or don't do will allow them to live or will hasten their deaths. The pain and exhaustion have to be put aside so they can go on. That constant adrenalin rush is tough on a healthy person, but on a wounded person it's even worse. (I'll add that if I'm ever in a plane crash in a remote wilderness like that, I want a Ben Payne with me! That man is amazing, going above and beyond to keep Ashley alive and kicking. Literally!) The story is told from Ben's point of view and he occasionally takes a few moments to record his thoughts to his wife, telling her about what he's going through, and reminiscing about their life together. The rest of the story is just focusing on surviving. This is really a thoughtful book, because Ben and Ashley are the only ones around during most of it, and Ben has a ton of time to think. Each decision made, each conversation he and Ashley have, each moment builds on the next and the next. Really the book isn't so much about whether Ben and Ashley survive, as it is about how this experience changes them. You don't stay total strangers with someone when you have to help them dress, or go to the bathroom, or any number of personal things that Ashley can't do for herself on account of her broken leg.

Then there's the twist at the end! Mr. Martin gives little bitty hints about it, but you'd have to be pretty discerning to figure it out before it happens. Well done indeed! I had been told that the last parts of the story made you want to go back and reread it and they were right. I had to go back and read certain parts again to understand that no lies were ever really told, but important details were just withheld. There were lots of little moments that I had completely looked over and now make a lot more sense. Mr. Martin is an excellent writer, his descriptions made me feel like I was on that mountainside with Ben and Ashley in the cold and snow wondering if I would survive. Basically I'm really glad I read this book, but it's not one that I'm dying to reread again. I probably will someday though. I think you should definitely read it, but not necessarily go out and buy it at the first opportunity. Maybe borrow from the library first.

A passage for you:

"By the way....I'm lost, and since I'm lost, we're lost. Won't take much to kill us out here. We're circling the drain now. That big cat nearly did us in. You should know, you were dancing with it. I guess the rub is, if I die, she dies. Not to mention your dog....whose name I can't remember."
A cold wind cut through me, and I zipped up my jacket. "I'm not pretending to be more important than I am, but I'm not asking for me. I'm asking for that girl in there with the broken leg and the slowly breaking spirit. She thinks she's hiding it, but she's not. She's tough, but this up here....this'll break anybody." I looked around. "This is....a tough place. It'll strip your hope fast." A tear broke loose and fell down my face. My hands were cut, scabbed and cracking. I shook my head, my lip trembling. "You and I....we never really finished our conversation, but I can tell you this....living with a broken heart is living half dead, and that doesn't mean you're half alive. It means you're half dead. And....that's no way to live."

Toodle-loo kangaroos! Happy reading!


  1. Sounds intense. And lovely at the same time.

  2. Giulia-Intense and lovely are excellent descriptions. It is a great book, I hoped that I made that clear in my review. :)

  3. You got me all intrigued about the final twist!!
    Also, it seems like this was a good book once you managed to get into it and that's cool :D

    I'm usually impatient but if I know there will be some payoff at the end I can handle it.

  4. Alex-It was a great book. Once you're past the first bits (which I know can be a deal-breaker for some readers) it definitely gets better. And that twist, it really wasn't what I was expecting! Very nicely done. :)

  5. Thanks Angi! Where would I be without encouragement from great friends? :)


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