Title: The Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg
Genre: Contemporary, Literary Fiction
Length: 336 pages
Book Rating: B
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A troubled, young widow hikes from Yosemite Valley deep into the wilderness on the John Muir Trail to elude her shameful past in this emotionally gripping story from the author of House Broken.
With her thirtieth birthday looming, Liz Kroft is heading for the hills—literally. Her emotional baggage weighs her down more than her backpack, but a three-week trek promises the solitude she craves—at least until her boyfriend, Dante, decides to tag along. His broad moral streak makes the prospect of confessing her sins more difficult, but as much as she fears his judgment, she fears losing him more. Maybe.
They set off together alone under blue skies, but it’s not long before storms threaten and two strange brothers appear along the trail. Amid the jagged, towering peaks, Liz must decide whether to admit her mistakes and confront her fears, or face the trail, the brothers and her future alone.
In The Middle of Somewhere by Sonja Yoerg, a three-week hike on the John Muir Trail turns into a complicated journey of healing for main protagonist Liz Kroft and her boyfriend Dante Espinoza. Looking forward to her solitary trek, Liz is dismayed when Dante decides to join her but when the weight of her mistakes grows too heavy to bear, she finally reveals her deepest secrets to him. Will her confessions bring the couple closer together? Or will these revelations devastate their relationship beyond repair?
Raised by her distant (and uninvolved) single mother, Claire, Liz’s childhood was anything but normal. Learning from a young age to take care of herself, Liz is independent and quite self-sufficient. She finds it difficult to make friends but when she reconnects with classmate, Gabriel Pemberton, in college, she unexpectedly falls in love with him (and his family). The two eventually marry and settle down, but without firsthand experience with “normal” relationships due to her unconventional upbringing, Liz has no idea how to fix her soon floundering marriage. After Gabriel’s death, she begins her life over in a new state and plans to remain single until she meets her co-worker, Dante. Despite the cautious progression of her unexpected romance with him, Liz is still unsure she made the right choice to move in with him. In the aftermath of a panicked decision she made without consulting him, she hopes the 220 mile hike will provide her with some much needed clarity about what comes next for her and their relationship.
Liz is not at all thrilled by Dante’s decision to accompany her on the John Muir Trail. He is not exactly an outdoorsman and the upcoming hike will be strenuous with few creature comforts. Her irritation increases when he fails to follow her advice and he is miserable almost as soon as they begin their journey. However, Liz is most frustrated by the lack of solitude to reflect on the choices she has made.
Despite the rather inauspicious beginning to their expedition, Liz unexpectedly begins to confide in Dante about her previous marriage. However, she remains very introspective and it is soon clear that she is deeply troubled by a recent decision. In spite of her reluctance to divulge this upsetting secret, Liz is finding it increasingly difficult to keep this distressing information from Dante. Unfortunately, her suspicions about his reaction are accurate but as she tries to explain the reasons behind her decision, Liz gains unexpected insight about herself. Her explanations fall on deaf ears and Dante pulls away from her both physically and emotionally as he tries to process this unexpected revelation. Before they can repair the rift between them, Liz and Dante find themselves in sudden danger when two hikers they meet on the trial embark on a menacing game of cat and mouse with them.
The Middle of Somewhere is an incredibly well-written novel with an unusual storyline. The John Muir Trail is a fascinating backdrop for the unfolding story and Sonja Yoerg brings both the breathtaking scenery and grueling conditions vibrantly to life. Liz and Dante’s journey is laden with arduous obstacles to overcome both physically and emotionally and the suspense element provides an unexpected opportunity for healing. Overall, an engaging and compelling novel that I recommend to readers who enjoy contemporary literary fiction.