Synopses & Reviews
Backpacking into the Wind River Mountains on their tenth annual trip, Mack and his wife, Vonnie, find the magnificent woods and stunning mountains of Wyoming full of ghosts and danger. Mack comes from a long line of ranchers, and his dedication to keeping the family land has led him into penury and a life of crime. Vonnie is a fiercely intelligent, headstrong girl who came west for love, only to have it stolen from her bit by bit.
They've made this trip to say goodbye to each other, but as they navigate the trails they know so well, they come to understand the true nature of their wounds. And Mack has one more secret: he is trying to receive a signal and retrieve something that has fallen from the sky. It is a beacon that will lead them into a wood far darker than they've ever imagined. Ron Carlson's love for the mountains and his mastery of fiction radiate in the pages of this thrilling, fast-paced love story.
"The dense Wind River Mountains of western Wyoming is where Carlson (Five Skies) sets his brooding latest, a tale of expired love and desperate measures. Mack, son of a longtime rancher, has made many missteps in life, culminating in a recent stint in jail where 'he'd rusted like an old post when the weather turned.' While he's in jail, his recently ex-wife Vonnie agrees to join him one last time on their annual ritual of backpacking through the Wyoming wilderness to fish, camp and rediscover each other. Mack, though, has a hidden motive: a friend/technical genius has hired him to retrieve a valuable drone that's crash-landed in the forest. Carlson describes the couple's six days wandering the wooded terrain in delicate, measured prose, careful to miss neither the lush scenery nor the incrementally amplified tension as Mack edges closer to his prize and shady characters from the past appear. Carlson has produced a work of masterful fiction, combining the sad inevitability of a doomed relationship with sheer nail-biting suspense. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Like Rick Bass and Jim Harrison, Carlson writes about the natural world with convincing authority.... The Signal takes us into terrain that's stunning and terrible. In doing so, it becomes both an elegy to a broken marriage and a heart-stopping, suspenseful thriller." Jennifer Gilmore, The New York Times Book Review
"When a writer as masterful as Carlson lays out his methods in the same straightforward way a carpenter might use to tell an apprentice how to frame a house, it is a generous gift. It's also a little misleading (because the process is not quite as simple as he makes it sound) and a little deflating (because any glimpse behind the veil of artistry that reveals a man sitting in front of a computer is a bit of a letdown). Dorothy and her friends are not happy when they find out the Wizard of Oz is a little old man from Omaha. Where's the great and powerful ruler who sent them after a witch's broomstick?" Jeff Baker, The Oregonian
(read the entire Oregonian review
Carlson's love for the mountains and his mastery of fiction radiate in the pages of this thrilling, fast-paced love story.
"The Signal accelerates like an avalanche...If men can't be brought back to fiction by books as fine as this one, it's their own damn fault."
-The Washington Post
Ron Carlson, author of the critically acclaimed Five Skies, is an award-winning writer beloved by booksellers, reviewers, and readers alike. His most thrilling book to date, The Signal follows the story of Mack and Vonnie, a married couple who, after ten years together, are taking their last hike in the mountains of Wyoming to say goodbye to their relationship and to each other. As the troubled and tragic elements of their past gradually come to light over the course of their journey, Mack keeps a secret: he is tracking a signal, sent via a beacon that has fallen from the sky, that will lead them both into a wood far darker than they have ever imagined.
A beautifully written and suspenseful tale of love and peril by an award-winning writer.
About the Author
Ron Carlson is the award-winning author of four story collections and four novels, most recently Five Skies. His fiction has appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, Playboy, and GQ, and has been featured on NPR’s This American Life and Selected Shorts as well as in Best American Short Stories and The O. Henry Prize Stories. His novella, “Beanball,” was recently selected for Best American Mystery Stories. He is the director of the UC Irvine writing program and lives in Huntington Beach, California.