The White Road, by Sarah Lotz

Six stars

This is my first venture into the world of Sarah Lotz and her writing, which is important to note from the outset. The story took me to new heights and offered some self-examination in some chilly conditions, something that I presumed at the beginning of this reading journey would prove exciting. Simon Newman is a thrill seeker of sorts. Not only that, but he likes to document those who seek thrills, but do not succeed, to the point that they lose their lives. Teaming up with a friend, Simon agrees to go inside a cave to explore, in hopes of finding—and documenting with video—a number of bodies of fellow cave explorers who perished. Macabre? Definitely, but when the exploration does not go as planned and Simon almost loses his life, he has an epiphany of sorts, as well as collecting a ton of emotional baggage. Simon turns to his next adventure, climbing the north side of Mount Everest, where there are surely many bodies are strewn across its paths. Lying to falsify his need to be there, Simon learns about an epic explorer, Juliet Michaels, who lost her life trying to be the first female to ascend to the summit. Through her journals (which the reader also experiences as a secondary narrative), Simon is able to learn that Juliet faced demons of her own, only to perish in the attempt to conquer them. With the climb moving forward, Simon meets a fellow climber whose story is closely tied to Juliet’s, all while he is on the lookout for new video footage to wow his website viewers back home. Struggling to come to terms with his past struggles, Simon realises that there is much more to the Juliet Michaels story than meets the eye, if only he will take the time to follow the path laid out before him. Lotz pens this interesting story, which may ‘pique’ the curiosity for some, though I found it to be an avalanche of convoluted writing.

I would suspect that the worst thing for an author is to have a reader spend time with a book and think, ‘Ok! So where is the point in all this?’ I felt that way throughout this novel and could not shake that it was not simply me in a poor reading mindset. I cannot criticise the writing, for it was quite well developed, or even the characters, as they did reveal themselves in a decent fashion. While the narrative was excessively long, I can see the Lotz wanted to condense each ‘happening’ into a single chapter, thereby making them long and somewhat convoluted (like a mountain trail?). I could not find myself caring much about the story or how the characters moved from one mindset to another. I like to learn and Lotz offers many chances to explore mountain climbing, going so far as to add a glossary of terms and peppering the narrative with ‘mountain-speak’. I just felt that the story left me feeling disconnected, like an old piece of Velcro that no longer has the ability to adhere to much of anything. Surely there are others who loved the book and praise Lotz for her writing. First impressions are strong and I simply could not find myself loving the book or the premise. Maybe I am just too jaded or want action rather than epiphanies embedded in a deeper meaning. Whatever it is, I cannot pretend that I am the problem, though perhaps I need my own hike away from the rest of the world to clear my head.

Thanks, Madam Lotz, for sharing this piece. I did not find it engaging, but I am sure others will lap it up.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: