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A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain

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The seductive and chilling debut novel from the critically acclaimed author of The King of Limbo

In isolated British Columbia, girls, mostly native, are vanishing from the sides of a notorious highway. Leo Kreutzer and his four friends are barely touched by these disappearances—until a series of mysterious and troublesome outsiders come to town. Then it seems as if the devil himself has appeared among them.

In this intoxicatingly lush debut novel, Adrianne Harun weaves together folklore, mythology, and elements of magical realism to create a compelling and unsettling portrait of life in a dead-end town. A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is atmospheric and evocative of place and a group of people, much in the way that Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones conjures the South, or Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children provides a glimpse of the Las Vegas underworld: kids left to fend for themselves in a broken world—rendered with grit and poetry in equal measure.

256 pages, Paperback

First published February 25, 2014

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About the author

Adrianne Harun

6 books22 followers
Adrianne Harun is the author of two short story collections,The King of Limbo, a Washington State Book Award finalist, and Catch, Release, winner of the Eric Hoffer Award. Stories from her collections have been listed as Notable in both Best American Short Stories and Best American Mystery Stories. Her first novel, A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain, was long-listed for the International Dublin Literary Award, a finalist for both the Pacific Northwest Booksellers’ Award and the Washington State Book Award and winner of a Pinckley Prize for Debut Crime Fiction. Her second novel, On the Way to the End of the World, will be published in September 2023.

A long-time resident of Port Townsend, Washington, Adrianne ran a garage, Motorsport, with the legendary Alistair Scovil for many years.

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Displaying 1 - 30 of 223 reviews
Profile Image for karen.
3,988 reviews170k followers
August 18, 2018
See, you know us. Or think you do.

i loved this book.

it reminded me very much of Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone which is a sort of short story cycle/novel about a group of young folk who encounter the devil in small-town germany and the havoc he creates in their town and to their relationships. this one is more of a complete novel than Your House Is on Fire, Your Children All Gone, because there is a clear story arc, but there are also scattered vignettes that stand alone as folk-tale chapters which reemphasize the haunted tone of the book without contributing to the story arc itself.

and it is just masterful. it hits all my personal buttons: my love of carefully doled-out magical realism, my love of grit lit, and my love of pure storytellers; writers who are able to engage the reader with a direct storyline instead of alienating showy flourishes. complicated, important stories are best told in an accessible way, and since her intent is to raise awareness for this terribly real situation while still telling an interesting story, she has achieved a perfect voice here; an eerily beautiful and haunting story wrapped around real outrage.

that isn't to say that there isn't gorgeous prose here. direct and simple storytelling does not, to me, mean flat or serviceable. it's about the easy recognition of ourselves in the stories of others, and the novelty of a life not your own.

the attraction of storytelling comes into play in this book, as a resident encounters a newcomer and waits eagerly to hear something "new," something "other."

Jackie wanted to ask so much that she couldn't ask anything, could only wait hopelessly for Hana to tell her tale.

Almost everybody who shows up here has a story, usually embellished and smoothed out. That's one big difference right off between those who arrive and those who live here. Our own stories were unedited - sprawling and unpretty - and nothing could clip and shape and redefine them as long as we stayed here. As long as we were alive. In fact, our stories started out messy, our families telling tales on us as mere infants, cataloging all our peculiarities in the womb and pinning them on us as soon as we arrived so that even our good points became barbs, jabbed back at us whenever we got in the way. In a place like this, the stories circulate over and over and grow flatter with each pass, and it's no wonder townies got hungry for new ones, ones with more drama, which more or less explains our behavior. No one wants bad news, but it's something to tell.

for me, the setting is perfect. what draws me to grit lit is its emphasis on location, on isolation, shedding light on rural communities whose inhabitants struggle against nature, poverty, and the temptation of the easy escapes of drugs and alcohol. the poetry of unsung heroics and the bitterness of yielding to despair. grit lit is the modern-day equivalent of my beloved steinbeck and thomas hardy, and these stories never get old to me.

this one is a little twist for me on my normal grit lit, in that it takes place in british columbia, where the inhabitants are a mixture of the descendants of european immigrants and the native kitselas and haisla tribes. There is a lot of casual racism towards mixed-blood and pure first nation people, which further splinters an already isolated populace, but even with this fragmentation, there is still a profound sense of "us" vs "outsiders."

The way we see this place is different from how you would if, say, you were a vanload of senior climbers come for a camping trip from the city or the exiled Bavarian wife of the lumber executive constantly comparing our forests with those of your youth or a Kitselas woman working your first job at the Centre after pushing through the community college and nearly collapsing under a daily weight of disregard so that you vibrate with the dual desire to both shake and embrace everyone you meet. Or different, say, then if you are one of those kids common here who begin drinking in the womb and keep it up, starting early in the day, driving trucks as old as Bryan's straight off the graveled, icy logging roads. You only know boredom and splintered light and the constant nagging in your heart to get out, get out, get out.

even without the supernatural element, there is enough real-world danger to supply the tension. the threat of fire in a heavily wooded community, plus a backwoods crime family and their cronies rolling through town getting people hooked on drugs and alcohol, with family ties to the law and enough buried bodies to ensure no one will be stupid enough to oppose them, preying on the limited prospects of the downtrodden inhabitants who have given up on a better life.

Moonjuice, Wildwood Mash - these were refined compared with Flacker's home-burnt brew, which was just two steps away from antifreeze. It addled those kids, took away their sight and gave them endless gut pains that if they were lucky they could relieve by massive bouts of vomiting as they began to sober up. Give 'em a week (or even a couple of nights) to recover and back they'd go.

It's not that we're stupid, we all could tell you that. Screw that.

No, take any one of the kids from around here and set him down in a leafy city neighborhood with all the advantages and see what he can do. Guarantee you, you'd see right away the difference between your average coddled suburban kid and one with innate smarts. No, ignorance is not a choice here. But what else do they have? Most of the kids aren't getting away, and those who head up to Flacker's know the world conspired against their kind so long ago it's like they're at the bottom of a murky, shit-filled trench, and they might as well splash about until they drown as wait around for someone to outright crush them.

into this already-fraught existence come several newcomers, individuals who lead others into temptation and prey upon their restlessness, their sense of justice and revenge, their basest impulses and their longing to be seen and loved.

and hell follows with them.

i cannot recommend this highly enough. it does everything a great novel should do, and it is a true, riveting page-turner. i read it in one, fever-addled sick day, and it made me forget, for a time, all my physical discomfort, because i needed to know what was going to happen next.

an amazing book - highly recommended. by me.

also - it opens with a leonard cohen quote and later has a more prolonged leonard cohen segment. could i love it more??


from the acknowledgments:

The story here was sparked by outrage over the ongoing murders and disappearances of aboriginal women along Highway 16, the so-called Highway of Tears, in northern British Columbia, a situation that needs as much light as can be shined upon it - and energy and solutions.

review to come, when my fever abates, but for now:

wonderful, amazing, wonderful wonderful.

come to my blog!
Profile Image for Maciek.
567 reviews3,413 followers
June 6, 2014
This short, debut novel could have been one of my favorites from this year - set in an isolated, remote town in northern British Columbia where young, mostly native women disappear without a trace near a notorious highway (based on a real series of unexplained murders in BC). It's a typical small dead-end town among the wilderness of the Pacific Northwest with typical dead-end people trying to make ends meet, but with a spectre of evil underneath the surface - implied to be more than typical small-town cruelty.

There is great potential here, but I saw nothing of it come to fruition. Although Harun's novel follows several characters, I never felt even the most remote interest in any of them or anything that they were doing. Harun's novel is dislocated and moves rather randomly from point to point, without visible structure - it's as if events happened in a haze, without a clear cause and effect. Harun wrote short stories before publishing this book, which could explain its dislocated structure - there are several plots and interesting ideas here, but they don't come together into a meaningful cohesion.

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is not a terrible book, but it did disappoint me pretty badly - it's one of the most disjointed and muddled books I've read recently, and instead becoming one of my favorites from this year it's one of the most frustrating and disappointing so far. Approach with caution, and don't feel bad about quitting if you'll start to experience what I did.
Profile Image for Teresa.
Author 8 books817 followers
July 29, 2018
Hell, on the other hand, has no borders. You can find it anywhere. Do what you like, where you like, to whom you like.

This novel first came to my attention as the winner of the 2015 Pinckley Prize for a Debut Novel, which is administered by a local group. The book seems to be considered a grit-lit/magical-realism hybrid, yet it truly transcends any label one might want to slap on it.

As the author states in her acknowledgments, the story was "sparked by outrage over the ongoing murders and disappearances of aboriginal women along Highway 16 ... in northern British Columbia"; but if you are reading it for that alone, you will be disappointed, as those crimes are in the background for what is really a different story, one encompassing a meditation on good and evil. Are the evil personages actually wreaking havoc, or are some of the characters turning those influences into good? It's complicated.

The sense of place is atmospheric. The short chapters of the main story alternate with either original folktales, which I loved, or with musings (for lack of a better word) on the devil that reflect what's come before or what's yet to come. It's all beautifully written, poetic at times, and subtle in its messages, one of which seems to be: Evil slips in, becomes insidious, when we're not paying attention.
Profile Image for Skip.
3,351 reviews413 followers
April 26, 2014
The NY Times Book Review concluded "This novel is a mesmerizing incantation, harrowing and hypnotic." I have to disagree. While I think Harun's descriptive prose is excellent, even poetic at times, I did not connect with the characters and had trouble remembering all of them. Based on British Columbia's infamous Highway of Tears, where natives disappear without a trace, the book's strength is its depiction of local life; however, much of it seems senseless to me, somewhat like McCarthy's Blood Meridian or Cash's A Land More Kind Than Home. 2.5 stars.
Profile Image for Andrea.
12 reviews2 followers
May 17, 2014

This is the end. This is the end. This is the end (okay, not the Seth Rogen movie). I turned the last page of Adrianne Harun’s A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain and those were the words going through my mind. Throughout Harun’s debut novel, there were many points where the words in front of me began to blur and condense into this four-word chant. Because this is a story about a dead-end town and people close to a dead-end. I’ve always imagined that once I finish a book and close it, the characters’ lives still go on, just unread and unobserved. I judge if an ending is successful or not on whether I can wholeheartedly believe that characters have a future they can look toward (Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, for instance). But after I put Harun’s book down, I wasn’t convinced. Actually, I was very confused. Nothing that happens in this book really assures me that anything changed after I finished the story. The focus of A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is on five seventeen-year old best friends living in a small town in British Columbia: Leo, our Kitselas/Haisla/Polish/German narrator, Jackie, a big-boned Native girl working at the local camp kitchen, Ursie, who works at the local motel, Bryan, Ursie’s brother, and Tessa, who acts as a replacement mother for her large family. These characters are tied together by their hatred and fear of Gerald Flacker, leader of the gang who dominates the entire town with a thriving drug business, drunken brawls, and just plain intimidation. The entire story plays on the desire of the five friends, Bryan in particular, to get rid of the gang and all the trouble they bring, to finally have some power over the bad guys and also over their own futures.

This desire to get rid of a villain who is plainly preventing everybody else from living a normal life strongly resembles Andre Dubus’s short story, “Killings”, in which the narrator Frank longs to avenge his murdered son by punishing the murderer once and for all (I recommend the Academy Award-winning movie based off of the short story). In both stories, the villains are regular faces around the small towns, totally unavoidable and totally untouchable, it seems. When I compare these two stories, it’s clear to me that Dubus does the better job in conveying the confusion, guilt, and moral grey area that is always present in a story that strives to justify murder.

Harun has the confusion and the greyness, but it’s more like a thin haze surrounding her entire story. Every time I thought something concrete was going to happen, the description dissolved into pieces of emotions and actions. I felt like there was a missing sentence Harun was withholding from me in order to understand exactly what was going on through the characters’ minds, let alone what exactly was happening. Dubus has the same problem, namely convincing us that violence is the only way out of a problem, but he is more successful because he is smart about clueing us in on how events in Frank’s backstory influences his every inner conflict about his future actions. Simply put: Cause and Effect. With Harun’s writing, I could never find that cause and effect. Things just seemed to happen for no reason, or a character would act a certain way as if possessed by a strange entity.

Granted, Harun does not hide the presence of an unseen “devil” throughout the book. In fact, she addresses it repeatedly, with Leo, the narrator, referring to it in the second chapter as the driving force for all of the crazy events in the town:

I want to yell: Look Sharp! For as Uncle Lud might say, the devil could find a soul mate in a burnt teaspoon and he sure as hell can choose whatever forms suit his purpose…Look Sharp! As if that might have altered every part of the day the devil first arrived to meet us–the bunch of us–in person.

Harun establishes her unseen devil at the very beginning. And she continues its presence through short, periodical chapters called “The Devil Plays With a Telephone,” or “Laundry Day for the Devil.” So it’s not a secret that something unusual is happening to these kids in their dead-end town. I just think the explanation of what is happening to them is done poorly. Some people may call it magical realism, this vague influence of an anti-Deus ex machina figure, but I just call it confusing.

Then there are moments where Harun’s writing is spectacularly beautiful. Especially when she describes the simplest things:

Her laugh was a lucent bell, a golden peal I swore I saw arc and ripple in the shimmering air before its chime faded away.

Her writing definitely has its shining moments. Her prose reminds me of Lindsay Hill’s stream-of-consciousness style in Sea of Hooks. And to her credit, Harun’s novel was easier to read than Sea of Hooks (that one took me 2 months, vs 2 days), perhaps because of the shorter chapters and length (349 vs 273 pgs). However lyrical her writing may be, it’s not enough to keep a fragmented plot and weak character development glued together.
Speaking of the characters, I was also disappointed by how much I didn’t learn about them. After reading 273 pages about their lives, I still didn’t know much more than what the Amazon blurb says. The most interesting perspectives are of Ursie and Leo’s individual lives. Ursie’s job as a maid in the local motel, frequented by drunkards and gamblers and all-around no gooders, kept me happy, even with small details like Ursie’s love of Diet Bubble-Ups:

Ursie admired the long-necked bottles and the frostiness Albie’s old soda machine achieved, and despite the odd aftertastes, despite her inevitable preference for Diet Bubble-Up, she savored every brand and would spend several considerate minutes before the soda machine each afternoon. Sometimes she was still gazing at the machine when Bryan’s old truck with its often-loose fan belt screeched into the lot.

Leo’s own struggles at home, to please his mother by finishing his online physics course and avoid going to mining college, also deserve a shoutout. When he assesses his self-worth, concluding “Yeah, it seemed to me that I was all bleak suggestion,” not only does it describe a lot of teenager’s fears of going nowhere, but it also addresses the stagnancy of the entire town.

Another thing to consider is that I may have missed the entire purpose of this story. It may have flown right over my head. I was certainly left feeling like I was missing the bigger meaning. Harun states in her acknowledgments that this story “was sparked by outrage over the ongoing murders and disappearances of aboriginal women along Highway 16, the so-called Highway of Tears…The story veered into a more fanciful narrative after a dinner party discussion of good and evil.” But the plot about girls disappearing off the highway barely comes into play throughout the story. Yet I understand how difficult it is to describe a situation where not even the main characters know exactly what has taken hold of them, let alone try to portray all the shapes and forms in which good and evil manifest.

A hazy novel, which for me never managed to go above a low, steady pulse of unrealized potential.

Rating: 5 - eh: choppy plot and character development, but the story has some interesting parts and a few redeeming characters
Profile Image for Liz  .
150 reviews40 followers
October 21, 2014
I really want to review this novel, but have started and restarted three times. I just don't know how to do it justice. The feelings I felt while reading were really like no other. Impending doom- and an overwhelming sense of "ick". I can't think of another novel that has made me feel this way. I kind of like it- in a really uncomfortable way.

Throughout the novel, we follow a group of teenagers, life-long friends, who live in isolated British Columbia. Here, girls, mostly natives, are going missing along a stretch of highway. (True story- "the highway of tears"). We learn that the devil is at play.
The sense of place here is so strong and at times a bit overwhelming.
The story unfolds so uniquely as we learn about the trials and tribulations the kids face, and the evil that arrives, in the form of several outsiders that come to this dead-end town.
Short passages of gothic folklore and legend are interwoven between each chapter about the teenagers' lives. If be lying if I didn't say that these vignettes left me a little goosebumpy.
With the main story often starting and stopping so ubruptly, I felt like the characters were literally disappearing- adding to that overwhelming feeling of doom.
This narrative structure was really brilliantly done, delivering a powerful punch.
Profile Image for Bonnie Randall.
Author 5 books119 followers
May 3, 2014
When I finally wrapped my head around the story this novel was* really* telling, as opposed to the story I *thought* it would tell, my appreciation for it changed—and the way I read it changed too. Billed as a magical realism novel that pursues the real-life mystery of vanishing aboriginal women along the Highway of Tears, A Man Came Out Of A Door In The Mountain is not, exactly, a story about that. The disappearances are referred to as mostly incidental, sketched out as more of an over-reaching (and certainly sinister) backdrop than a part of the actual narrative drive.

As for the narrative drive, I am still not entirely sure *what* this book was about….Dark hopelessness? Hopeful darkness? I think perhaps both, and regardless….

The characters (the town being one of them) compelled me completely; Leo, the soft-spoken geek indulgent of all things gentle (his mother and her endless caregiving to anything vulnerable. Lovely, tortured Tessa and *her* caregiving to all things vulnerable) is a beautiful human being. A composite of cultures, a composite of both male and female tendencies (though certainly heterosexual), and a composite of both the present and the past, Leo roots himself hard in the folklore beloved Uncle Lud has passed on to him, using it as both directive and reference. Leo is an outstanding literary character; I closed this novel knowing I would miss him and yearning to know what else may happen to and for him (sign of an excellent piece of writing).

Uncle Lud’s a white man who adheres to and repeats Native folklore (in the traditional story-telling manner). One of the many fascinating juxtapositions A Man Came Out (et al) has to offer, Lud is dying yet very much living; a powerful player in the orchestration of events. Uncle Lud is, I think, the Native culture itself, longing for itself and its survival, so resilient that it will even use a white man to be its representative.

Tessa, in turn, is the embodiment of the matriarchy of Native culture—and realistically (yet tragically) placed amongst the brokenness of a family whose generational dysfunction is reflective of every sin historically perpetrated on our Aboriginal people. Her suffering, her wisdom, her gentleness and pain, all are representations of a culture that has been so shattered—and yet still survives and, with quiet pride, tries to persevere.

The town is perhaps the most compelling character of all. This place is its own entity; another composite of cultures and a community where grit and work and survival are not just requisites but, rather, givens. The tourist trade has never lifted off here and no wonder—this town cannot be understood by outsiders. And, ironically, it cannot understand outsiders either….not unless it applies the old stories to who they are and where they came from. This town is, in other words, meant to be homogenous. To stand alone. Its independence is, in fact, both its blessing and its curse for we see that when newcomers do arrive, the town—which is not perfect but nonetheless capable of being navigated by its inhabitants—becomes a very dangerous setting indeed.

The arc here, the tone, the setting and its people are chilling. But beyond that….
Flacker and the Nagles are far more bozos than bad guys so it was a tough sell to believe that they were the tyrants everyone believed them to be. Ditto the fleeting Hana Swann and even more murky Keven Seven. We’re told they’re bad rather than are shown they’re bad (and maybe that’s the point: ‘story-telling’ tradition, remember?) but I would have appreciated if they’d had a little more stage time. It would have helped ground me in buying that they were, indeed, The Dark Forces Among Us. Other characters too had less air-time than I thought they deserved; Jackie was referred to more than she was seen (again, maybe intentional, as she became one of the ‘gulls in the hills’), Bryan was a little flat-Stanley, and Ursie’s ability to feel vibes all but disappeared by the end (although maybe this too was intentional; Keven Seven, after all, completely over-rode her ability to “read a room”, so to speak).

Yet, at the end of the day….
Did the devil really do them all a disservice? Or was his /her /its arrival just a part of the necessary fabric that needed to unfold in their lives? By the end of this novel we truly don’t know. Sure, Jackie disappears, beguiled by The Snow Woman named Hana—but it is a gentle, if mysterious vanishing, and if what Hana Swann has said: “These hills are full of gulls (girls)” is true, then maybe the vanishing(s) is /are not necessarily a *bad* thing. Perhaps the terrain simply absorbs these women and in turn the women become an omniscient, if eerie, part of the fabric of the setting; presences who may provide both guidance and menace for the souls who survive.

My favorite scene in this book is when Ursie has internalizations as to what feelings emanate from the rooms at The P&P. This novel, like those grungy P&P rooms, sets a tone too: an eerie vibe that is dark and foreboding. Off-putting. Yet terribly, irresistibly seductive. Verdict: I loved this book despite it not being what I’d assumed—or wanted. 4 Stars that would be an easy 5 (*should* actually be a 5. Okay, dammit, it IS a 5) if I wasn’t still pouting that it wasn’t a more linear take on the Highway of Tears disappearances….
Profile Image for Kristin  (MyBookishWays Reviews).
601 reviews204 followers
February 25, 2014

A Man Came Out of a Door In the Mountain is mostly told in the voice of Leo Kreutzer, a teen that lives with his mother and ailing Uncle Lud, to whom he is a caretaker, along with his mother. For the most part, life is a struggle for Leo and his friends Bryan, Tessa, Ursie, and Jackie. They spend a lot of their days at the refuse dump, shooting rats, and Leo’s life is punctuated by the correspondence course in physics that his mother is making him take, and the increasingly odd emails he’s getting from its instructor. Physics eludes him, but the trajectory of his friends’ lives does not. Leo’s Uncle Lud is a longtime storyteller, and it’s through these stories that Leo gains insight on the evil that seems to be lurking among them, especially in the form of an ethereally pale, unusually strong girl that calls herself Hana Swann. Then there’s Kevin Seven, a man that’s staying at the local motel and is especially gifted at sleight of hand. Ursie works as a maid there, and has fallen under his thrall and Jackie has fallen under the spell of Hana Swann. If you’re thinking this all sounds like so many loose ends, I suppose it does, but it does together in the end, in quite a shocking way.

The novel takes place in British Columbia, in a mining town pretty much run by Gerald Flacker, a man that keeps his meth addicted girlfriend submissive and her two small children feral and scrambling for handouts. It also helps that he has a family member on the police force and almost a whole family at his disposal in the form of the Nagles. As girls continue to disappear along the highway, Flacker maintains a hold on one of Leo’s friends, Bryan, but Bryan is starting to form a plan to rid the town of its resident menace.

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is not a straightforward mystery, or thriller. It really isn’t a straightforward anything, but what it is, is entrancing. It magnifies mountain life down to the smallest, most squalid details and you’ll get to know most of the characters intimately, yet with the sense that you’re being held at arm’s length. However, as bleak as things are, these kids are decent to their core and have hopes for the future. Even one of the Nagle boys longs to be a better man, and sees a shining beacon of hope in Tessa. The dash of magic realism adds an intriguing layer to an already richly layered, and beautifully written, almost poetic story, of hope, and evil, among the ruins. If you appreciate the work of authors like Stephen Dobyns, or really, just stories with prose that veritably sings, you’ll enjoy this one.
Profile Image for Liz Barnsley.
3,471 reviews1,009 followers
April 18, 2014
**4.5 stars**
Thank you to the author and publisher for the copy via netgalley.

In isolated British Columbia, girls, mostly native, are vanishing from the sides of a notorious highway. Leo Kreutzer and his four friends are barely touched by these disappearances—until a series of mysterious and troublesome outsiders come to town. Then it seems as if the devil himself has appeared among them.

This was a haunting, atmospheric tale that sucked me in right from the start with some tremendously eerie yet beautiful prose and a truly addictive and memorable story.

Its is a cleverly constructed and sometimes complicated tale with a wide cast of characters, often times chilling, always compelling and never letting up – told from various perspectives interspersed with narration and the stories of Leo’s Uncle Lud, a picture is painted of a hard, rough life lived in and around a town in British Columbia. In the background is the actual “Highway of Tears” where young girls often vanish…Leo and friends have only peripheral thoughts of this but they are about to get caught up in things they never imagined.

I was very impressed with the way the author sets the scene, both with magical descriptive prose and the viewpoints and feelings of the characters…it really is a book that you get totally lost in. Do you believe in the Devil? If you do not now, you may well after reading this. In a place where violence rules and life is tough, you can easily imagine the force of evil creeping in and taking advantage. It really is quite alarmingly spooky at times.

This novel is not any one thing, it is a glorious eclectic mix of many – mystery, a deep and fascinating mythology, a snapshot of small town life, an absolutely fantastical mix of magic and mundane. It is both enchanting and sinister, and it will haunt your dreams.

A fantastic debut. This is one author I must read again. Absolutely.

Happy Reading Folks!
Profile Image for Dawn Stowell.
211 reviews10 followers
March 31, 2021
Like the author, Harun, I too have spent time in the area of this stretch of highway. The Bulkley River and then the more muscular, striving, and gray-green Skeena River intermingle and run north-south alongside the highway. The ethereal and piercing Seven Sisters peaks, a closely grouped mountain range, are at the halfway mark between Prince George and Prince Rupert, near the small town of Smithers.

Back in the mid 70’s, and since then from time to time, I have traveled this land. The feeling of being alone or with one’s companions is to experience both the sheer wonderment of the landscape and also to feel the growing apprehension that lingers of traveling on a wild and isolated highway. This is what permeates your conscious mind, especially when the traffic is light. This is where at times you would not see another vehicle for a half hour or more and would pass great swathes of dense, uninhabited old-growth forest, and for the duration, you were soaked in a feeling that you were witnessing once again something few have ever seen, something almost out of time and place. Something sacred. This place is sacred.

Harun balances this out of time and place quality in a gothic tone, and roots it in gritty realism of impoverished circumstances of a mixed group of blended or not Aboriginal and Caucasian youth. She voices her story so very adeptly and in giving her voice a timeless quality, Harun gracefully skirts the boundaries of cultural appropriation. In doing this, she allows for alternative causes for the disappearance of Aboriginal young women and men, to be told through several dark, fairy-tale-like/folktale, Euro-centred stories that highlight good and evil. Harun wisely avoids any allusions to mythopoeic stories so as to not intrude on unwelcome space and in her words;

I also didn’t want to co-opt a real family’s tragedy

In this primal landscape of wilderness, it is easier to believe in dark forces. This malevolent force is symbolized by a universal Pied Piper sort who is ‘a man who came out of a door in the mountain, ‘ who goes down into villages or towns and pipes mesmerizing music that all the townsfolk children follow. They follow him to a wide portal in a mountainside and they all disappear into the cavern within never to be seen again. This dark and hypnotic presence is embodied in different shapes by the newly arrived characters; Kevin Seven, (the recruiter) Hanna Swan (the enabler) and the Flacker brothers (the enforcers) and Clark (the mountain man most closely personifies a destructive energy bound human being). Regardless of her academic associations, Harun has a unique take on ‘evil.’

I’m not a believer in any one god tied to an institution, but I do believe in energy, consciousness, and human volition, all of which can take us closer to—oh, a Higher Self or… well, you know, exactly the opposite. I don’t fully believe in forces acting upon the character, but I do heartily believe that energy is there, not just lurking but fully active.

One young man, Leo, must fight against this quartet of evil. This all-directional evil references key aspects, and they each are separate but have overlapping dark influences. Leo tries to protect those he loves from the workings of their everyday chaos, and it seems to him his efforts are like a mote in a maelstrom. At the same time that he is occupied with this overwhelming challenge, something crucial is left both undermined and unresolved.

Harun believes in an embodied evil entity that lurks, and she does create very creepy characters that lurk about, siphoning off of others. However, there is one thing that Harun does want the reader to understand:

I also want to be clear: A Man Came Out of the Door in the Mountain is not really about the Highway of Tears’ murders. There is nothing magical or mystifying about that situation. In other words, the devil did not do it—men did—and I’d hate for the devil alone to be the excuse.

Harun blends the forces of otherworldly evil with the every day to bring out and make known the more mundane (sarcasm) horrors of abuse, malnourishment, animal torture, and the laisse faire racism. 3.75
Profile Image for Albert.
1,428 reviews33 followers
August 7, 2014
Title - A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain

Author - Adriane Harun

Summary -

In a remote northern town, young girls; mostly Native Americans, has been gone missing. Though the authorities have many suspects, the local gang of meth dealers at the top of that list, a young group of native and half breed friends may have an altogether suspect. One that steps out of their history and legends.

"...Almost everybody who shows up here has a story, usually embellished and smoothed out. That's one big difference right off between those who arrive and those who live here. Our own stories were unedited-sprawling and unpretty-and nothing could clip and shape and redefine them as long as we stayed here. As long as we were alive..."

Leo and his friends; Bryan, Tessa, Jackie, and Ursie do their best to keep a low profile. From whatever is taking the girls and from Flacker and his gang until they cannot take it anymore. Bryan is sure Flacker and his hoods are taking the girls, but Leo has a different idea. An idea borne from listening to the tales rattled on by his Uncle Lud. Leo believes something has come to town and they are all in danger.

"...Later, after they'd delivered the boys back to the reserve, Toby asked Uncle Lud, "How did you know to do that boy? Who taught you that song?"
But Uncle Lud couldn't say, any more than the reserve boys could explain Snow Woman, the will-o'-the-wisp who tried to woo them from this life. They'd have chills for months afterward, even into the summer. A misery set into their bones that even drink couldn't ease..."

As Bryan put into motion his plan to destroy Flacker and his gang, Ursie is hidden in a hotel room dealing cards with a man, a spirit, a devil called Keven Seven; Leo must find a way to save Tessa from the death that awaits her at human and spirit hands alive.

"...Uncle Lud shouldn't have known about all that. But he did; I was sure he did. Just as I was sure he saved two boys from Snow Woman and heard Keven Seven instructing Ursie in dark arts. I imagined Uncle Lud in his final hours ascending his own mountain path, standing one last vigil as the Man Who Came Out of a Door in the Mountain arrived in his sights, shadowing the creature until the rock slipped back into place behind him, at least for a while..."

Review -

This is one of those books that leaves me conflicted. I wanted to like it much more than I did. I wanted it to be better. I wanted the story to come together and I wanted it to make sense. In the end it does. Sort of. And that's the problem.

The disappearing girls quickly becomes less of the central theme in the novel and instead is replaced by the small dead end life of the young people involved. Leo and his friends are both outcasts from the native people because of their mixed heritage and outcast from the townspeople due to their native blood. While this could also be a worthy novel it to is left tapped upon but not really explored.

The legends and mysticism of the Native culture is also brought out and for a time it is wondered whether some of the more eccentric characters are in fact spirits of the mountain or just really strange drugged out low-lifes.

It just seems that in this novel all these items have been touched on but not brought together in any kind of real format that enhanced the novel. Lots of ingredients but not stewed to a worthy broth. So what we are left with is a sense of what should have been.
Profile Image for Aimal .
514 reviews463 followers
February 24, 2017
2.75 ish / 5.

That synopsis had me intrigued. I can never pass up a book that has the mysterious, creepy synopsis. I can never pass up a book where you know nothing about the plot really, but you know that it’s going to be some twisted, dark stuff. I should know by now that most of these books disappoint me, just like this one did.

Which is a shame, because this book had so much potential. It had an interesting premise, a unique setting, and Harun is impeccable at creating a spook-tacular atmosphere. Everything about this book could have been spot-on. This book had the potential to end up in my favorites list. So, where did it fail?

1. The characters were flat and dull and boring. They had no energy to them, no pizzazz, no umph factor. They were just there, and I didn’t care for any of them. I didn’t care for our protagonist or his love interest. I didn’t care for the misinformed best friend, nor did I care for the naive hotel-worker.

2. The characters I did care about showed up twice in the book. We had Hana Swann, who was interesting and mysterious and fascinating. And we get to see her in the beginning, and that was about it really. Then there was Kevin Seven. The mysterious, alluring mister living in a motel who draws in the workers and teaches them card tricks. The devil himself? I have no freaking idea, because he shows up twice and nothing happens. I MEAN, WHY? THOSE WERE INTERESTING ASPECTS TO THE PLOT, but they were NEVER developed. *sobs*

3. Harun, as I have learnt, is typically a writer of short stories. In short stories, things tend to twist and turn a lot because they are SHORT stories. The plot can be dense, but it needs to be carried out in a way that can fit the definition of a short story. However, this was a novel. Harun needs to learn to flesh out the details in the plot a little more, so it doesn’t just seem like a clusterfuck of a read (excuse my french, please). She skims over important parts, and there’s a lot happening in there that doesn’t need to be. It’s a short book, but it just seemed to drag.

So yeah, the book had a lot of potential. The creep factor was fantastic. The atmosphere was fantastic. Even the writing itself was good, but the plot fell flat, the characters fell flat, and there was just too much going on for such a short novel. Boo, because I really was ready to fall in love with this book. Tsk tsk.
Profile Image for Beachesnbooks.
577 reviews
October 27, 2018
This atmospheric book is hard to categorize in terms of genre. It follows a group of friends in a Northwestern town besieged by poverty and bad people--and that's before the devil shows up. It deals a lot with violence against women and discrimination against indigenous communities, and according to the author's acknowledgements "was sparked by outrage over the ongoing murders and disappearances of aboriginal women along Highway 16, the so-called Highway of Tears, in northern British Columbia." The supernatural element was creepy and well-done, but I felt like the book could have been longer and developed its themes more fully.
180 reviews13 followers
April 16, 2014
I liked this book, and probably REALLY liked it, except that I'm left feeling like some kind of inferior reader who probably missed some piece of brilliance in all the hypnotic, poetic abstraction that moved the story along.

I say all that and then remember the fact that I was late to work this morning because I absolutely had to finish the book over breakfast. Not finishing, and not knowing, felt like the worst sort of delayed gratification. So maybe I did know what was going on?
Profile Image for Alicia Aringdale.
Author 1 book5 followers
January 16, 2022
A dreamy lyrical book that is part poetry, part folktale, and part small town tragedy. This book had a lot of interesting elements. I liked the group of friends and their bond, the enigmatic encounters with the devils and the exploration of pain that can be contained in a small town where so many are neglected and ignored. I don't think that the parts of the story held together super well. There didn't feel like a strong overall narrative. I did however enjoy the author's voice and that made it an enjoyable read.

Trigger warnings for Child abuse and neglect, murder, racism, drug use,
Profile Image for ✨️.
887 reviews157 followers
April 23, 2014
Project end is in sight, so books are back on the table!

In isolated British Columbia, girls, mostly native, are vanishing from the sides of a notorious highway. Leo Kreutzer and his four friends are barely touched by these disappearances—until a series of mysterious and troublesome outsiders come to town. Then it seems as if the devil himself has appeared among them.

In this intoxicatingly lush debut novel, Adrianne Harun weaves together folklore, mythology, and elements of magical realism to create a compelling and unsettling portrait of life in a dead-end town. A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is atmospheric and evocative of place and a group of people, much in the way that Jesmyn Ward’s Salvage the Bones conjures the South, or Charles Bock’s Beautiful Children provides a glimpse of the Las Vegas underworld: kids left to fend for themselves in a broken world—rendered with grit and poetry in equal measure.

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain blends folklore with the supernatural, told primarily through Leo Kreutzer. Beyond the arrival of an otherwordly girl into their town, Leo becomes concerned that the stories his Uncle Lud told him were coming true. Hasn't everyone been a bit spooked by an old tale about their town at some point?

As with books dealing with the supernatural, some characters have their own oddities, but across the board they feel realistic. Furthered by the awkward dialogue between certain people does feel a bit jarring as you read, in the same way it's odd to witness a conversation like it. But it still feels real, and it means the relationships and chemistry (or lack there of) feels legit.

It boils down mountain life to its most detailed moments, and though it feels a bit of a slog to read, from time to time, you find yourself feeling far more informed and the story more built up when you do find yourself into it.
Profile Image for Leah Bayer.
567 reviews214 followers
July 28, 2017
I was so desperate to like this book. I’d just read a ton of stinkers, and this had been floating around on my tbr for quite some time. Spooky woods, devil in a small town, missing girls. Sounds great! But the book gods have been oh so cruel to me this month and another “I can’t wait to read it!” book ended up being a total flop.

I feel like the book I read was totally different than the description. Yes, there is a small town in Canada with a half-white/half-native population that are constantly at odds. Yes, it touches on the very real problem of missing native girls. Yes, there’s a devil character. Yes, it’s pretty much Canadian grit-lit. Buuuuut it reads like YA for many of the chapters. At the core of the story is a group of 5 friends who are teenagers. So an inordinately large part of the book focuses on their very teen problems. Several chapters are dedicated to Leo’s problems with his physics homework. It just felt jarring. Also, one of them kind of vanishes 10% of the way in and, like, two people are all “hey where’s character x” but that’s it???

It’s a inconsistent, messy book. Very uncohesive. There are SO many plots in a very slim novel, but none of them (besides “oh god I have to do my physics homework!”) gets enough focus. The story jumps all over the place and I kept having to re-orient myself. It was very muddy going, and I often found myself feeling kind of lost (which is not something that happens to me when reading!). Characters acted bizarrely, there was no consistent characterization, new plot points bloomed out of nowhere 50% of the way into a chapter, old ones were dumped unceremoniously… it was just bad.

I did really enjoy two characters (Hana Swann and Keven Seven) but we barely see any of them. The one saving grace was those two and the little vignettes between chapters: there are bits of folklore and myth scattered through that read very evocatively. I wish the whole book was like that.
513 reviews2 followers
June 30, 2014
4.5 stars

I had never heard of this, probably never would have if it weren't for Goodreads.

Karen, one of the people I follow, who writes amazing reviews about why one should read a book, not what the book is about, reviewed this with a glowing write up.

In some respects, I read the book too quickly - it's that kind of story that you want to get on with it, find out what happens - and perhaps missed some of the many little points scattered through out the book.

I initially understood it to be about the young female native Canadians disappearing along this rural road, but it barely touches on that subject, but follows the lives of people just trying to make it until tomorrow, hoping for little successes in spite of overwhelming odds.

There is the native culture, the story telling, which sometimes comes true, the coming of age, the bad guys, the good guys and life in a town going nowhere.

I read some of the reviews, after I finished it, and the 'complaints' about the lack of a story line, a plot, but you really see neither when you are reading it, only grasping the bigger picture when you are done. I understand why some people didn't love it, but am with the folks who are gushing over this author's first novel.

And my brain doesn't wrap around symbolism and analogies as easily as it used to, so I'm sure I missed several points in this story. Way better than I expected....

Thank you to Karen for introducing me to something I never would have know about. Perhaps this book just isn't for everyone, but if you are adventurous, love the written word and very real characters and situations, you should give it a chance.
Profile Image for Bibliophile.
781 reviews74 followers
March 15, 2014
Leo Kreutzer has the misfortune of being a teen in an unnamed British Columbia hell-hole, where bullies and drug-dealers terrorize the locals and native girls go missing along the very real Highway of Tears. He spends his time struggling with an increasingly bizarre physics correspondence course, listening to his dying uncle Lud's haunting stories about evil in the mountains, and hanging out at the dump with his misfit friends. Into this gloomy existence some sinister strangers arrive, somehow very much resembling the mythical characters in uncle Lud's stories.

A strange and interesting novel, on the one hand starkly realistic, on the other hand filled with folklore and myth. It took some getting used to the shifting viewpoints (story told both through first person perspective as well as an omniscient narrator), and at times there was almost too much going on with the large cast of characters, but the narrative is powerful and engaging. The setting and characters are wonderful, and the atmosphere perfectly chilling. I now feel quite convinced that the Devil lives in rural B.C.
Profile Image for Michelle.
103 reviews2 followers
April 23, 2014
I liked the writing style and this book had potential. The thing is, it was supposed to be about a highway where people disappear and it really wasn't. From that standpoint, this book was terrible. If you forget about the highway, I really enjoyed the fantastical story and the friendships. I love the idea that there are people out there that would do anything for a friend and that said friend would be there to save them.
Profile Image for Kelsey.
314 reviews21 followers
March 28, 2014

This book was made for half stars. I liked it, but never liked it as much as I was hoping to. It was good, but never as great as I think it could have been. Ms. Harun is certainly a gifted writer, though.
Profile Image for Karen Barber.
2,614 reviews61 followers
August 5, 2017
This book is an absorbing, at times frustrating, read that has left me feeling unsettled.
The narrative focuses on a small town in isolated British Columbia. Over time girls, often Native, have been disappearing from the side of the highway, but nobody seems to be doing anything about it. The inhabitants of this Twin Peaks-style strangeness are too busy trying to survive.
Within the main arc - which doesn't always hang together cleanly- we focus on a number of individuals and their experiences.
There was a murkiness to this, and I often felt I'd missed something which was inherently frustrating. Events didn't always combine cleanly, but the characters themselves were intriguing.
In some ways this reminded me of The Smell of Other People's Houses. Not in subject as such, but in terms of describing a community that is inherently damaged. It was hard to warm to characters, and I admit that I'm not entirely certain what happened to some of them, but it was an interesting read.
Profile Image for Neilam.
39 reviews
December 18, 2021
Atmospheric & trippy; i enjoyed the folklore, the gloom, and the strong sense of place.
Profile Image for Hayley.
57 reviews27 followers
August 1, 2018
3.5, a great dedication to the Highway 16 victims
Profile Image for Jenny.
698 reviews38 followers
April 21, 2014

A Man Came Out of a Door in the Mountain is a fascinating story about a small mountain town, local folklore, the supernatural, and the strong ties of friendship.

The story follows the lives of a few local teens living in a rural mountain town. With the introduction of an otherworldly girl into their friendship group, one with glowing white skin who doesn't quite act right, things begin to change. Leo, whose storytelling favorite Uncle "Lud" is gravely ill, wonders if the stories his uncle shared with him are coming true in town. Although they're only folklore (right?), with the way events are falling, it seems the only possible explanation. But what is really happening in this remote town, and will the friends hold onto their friendship (and lives) as events unfold?

The plot in this book seemed slow moving when I read it, but looking back after finishing the story I realize that it wasn't actually very slow. There is a steady progression of events as the story moves forward, events building off of one another and spiraling seemingly uncontrollably at times. While there isn't a ton of action in the plot, as it's more of a dialogue and character based story, there is enough action to keep the reader glued to the pages waiting for more.

Each of the characters faces one hardship or another in their life, whether it's pressure to succeed in school while dealing with a much loved (but ill) uncle, or not having enough food to eat- every one of the kids deals with their own difficulty with the aid of their trusted friends. It's easy to imagine the plights of all the friends and the feeling of desperation practically oozes through the pages. The author definitely did a fantastic job of making the hardships easy for the reader to relate to and understand.

The characters in this book are all remarkable realistic, except for when the point is for a character to not seem realistic. The relationships between the characters and the feelings that they had for each other all resonated as true and realistic throughout the story. Even the dialogue between the characters was realistic. Any awkwardness between characters was obviously written as such specifically, rather than the product of an author who is unsure of how to write effective dialogue. Harun definitely understands how to make conversations between characters flow smoothly and realistically.

The writing in this book is really unique. At first I was unsure of whether or not I would be able to get into it, but after the first chapter I started to understand the flow and it wasn't as much of a challenge to read. Occasionally the author refers to characters generically as "he" or "she". At first this drove me crazy, I wanted to know who specifically by name the author was referring to; but as the story progressed I began to get used to this stylistic choice. Referring to characters as "he" or "she" initially added to the mysterious and ominous tone of the story, subtly adding to the mood.

The one thing that really detracted from my reading experience was the format of this book. In the Kindle version (at least I hope it's just the kindle version), headings are all blocked together with absolutely no spaces in between the words, making it difficult at times to decipher what the heading is supposed to say. Also, at various points during the book there were sections that were double spaced, with only a sentence per line, and other sections where there were whole paragraphs with no spacing in between. The formatting was definitely not consistent throughout the story which really distracted me and detracted from my reading experience.

In the end I found myself liking this book. While it wasn't the best book I've read in awhile (and the formatting really drove me crazy) this book did have some elements of a good story. If you're interested in traditional mountain folklore, or books about the lives of those living in rural towns, you will truly enjoy this book. You will also enjoy this book if you enjoy unique characters and subtle supernatural elements.

I received this book for review purposes via NetGalley.
Profile Image for Sandy S..
18 reviews6 followers
February 24, 2014
Out tomorrow (Feb 25)! Read it!

Disclosure: ARC provided by Goodreads First Reads/Penguin Books

A Man Came Out of a Door is one of those stories that will wake you up at three in the morning as your mind creeps back through it and tries to knot up those stray strings dangling at the back of your consciousness. Harun tells a fairly straightforward tale but includes just enough ambiguity in her storytelling that at times you have a nagging sense of something else lurking there in the words, like seeing a shadow move out of the corner of your eye. But though it is rife with tinges of magic and folklore, this story is firmly rooted in the reality of the rough-hewn landscape it is set in, and in the bleak lives of the characters who encounter evil in its many forms.

Set in rural, remote British Columbia, the story focuses on a two-day period in the life of Leo and his four friends as they bum around town in the scorching heat of summer: shootin’ stuff at the local dump, working crappy jobs, avoiding the local thugs, and oh yes, meeting the devil in his many guises. It is these portentous meetings with seemingly benign strangers that set the story in motion. These strangers appear suddenly in the lives of the characters, but their influence is felt immediately. With their pale skin, sooty trails and sulfurous whiff, these new acquaintances exert a hypnotic pull over the five friends, leading each of them down a dangerous path that they may not escape. Just another day in paradise, in a scabby town that is sideswiped by the infamous Highway of Tears where too many young women have vanished without a trace. While Leo’s voice fuels the main storyline, the devil himself appears in short, slightly hallucinogenic vignettes that emphasize the main plot in their own roundabout, elusive way that will make you scratch your head a bit (until 3 am, that is). But Harun manages to hold it all together with prose that keep an even keel between direct and gorgeous sing-song language:

Whenever I talk with Uncle Lud, I am in a huge field. Uncle Lud’s talk is a huge field, sky flung ‘round us like fresh cloth sprung from the laundry line, all sweetness and embrace.

But the devil isn’t the only influence in this story; the town is a being unto itself that holds sway over the characters.

You know where we are. You do.

And indeed I do. I barely escaped small town life. I know these kids. I know their boredom. I know the vast countryside that promises freedom but will happily swallow you whole and make you disappear. I know the paint-peeling shacks that pass for houses. I know the Nagles and the Flackers. I know what they’re selling. I know their low-rent, brainless violence. Although set B.C., this could be any small town, where prospects are limited and where alcohol and boredom inspire too many bad deeds. Life in a small town incubates these characters, good and bad alike – their aimlessness, their stilted stories, and their deep-seated need to escape it all, even if that means flirting with self-destruction. With this cocktail of despair, plus a raging forest fire – an inferno if you will – looming in the hills, the town itself threatens to combust at any moment. This is the realism that soundly balances the “magic” and prevents the story from wandering off into Twilight Zone territory.

A Man Came Out of a Door manages to be achingly and chillingly real, and hauntingly strange and ethereal at the same time. My advice? Read it, but go to bed early. You’re bound to be up in the wee hours of the morning.
Profile Image for Nicole.
919 reviews106 followers
May 29, 2017
Very very close to 5 stars. This was spectacular. First off, I am ashamed that I did not know about the Highway of Tears before reading this book and am now going to educate myself on it with some non-fiction. This was a slow start but after about 30 or so pages I was hooked. Beautiful writing, beautiful setting, eerie plot, and relatable characters.
Profile Image for Shonna Froebel.
3,788 reviews62 followers
August 13, 2016
This is a novel with layers, more complex than it seems at first.Set in a small town along Highway 17 in northern B.C. this novel is drawn partly from the disappearance of women, many of them native along this highway, a tragedy that has led to this highway being dubbed the Highway of Tears.
The novel is set around a group of young people. Leo Kreutzer is the only son of a mixed race marriage. His mother is native and his father white. Leo's mother has big plans for him, wanting him to become a mining engineer and thus Leo is taking a distance course in physics this summer, a course Leo is struggling with. His father is away working in a northern camp. Leo's uncle Lud also lives with them as he is dying from cancer. Lud is an old soul, a man attached to his landscape, a man in touch with the old legends, a man who seems to see and know things beyond the visible. Leo is driven to record his uncle's knowledge while he still can.
Leo's best friend is Bryan. Bryan and his sister Ursie live alone since their mother died and also have a mix of white and native blood. Their father is also away working in a camp, and recently his letters have grown more sparse. Their aunt, Madeline, is their closest family member and she has helped Ursie get a chambermaid job at the motel where she also works.
Another friend is Tessa. Tessa and her siblings were taken into a series of foster homes when she was eleven, none better than the home they'd been taken from. After two years Tessa and her older sister came back, but Tessa was changed. Leo has always had feelings for Tessa, but while close, the relationship has never progressed into true boyfriend/girlfriend status.
Jackie is full native, a strong girl, tough and tough-looking, she works at a nearby logging camp's dining hall. She has earned a reputation of not being one to take any crap from anyone, be it men making sexual suggestions to her or her friends, or those commenting on her ethnicity.
Also in town is Flacker, a man running a small empire of alcohol and drug supply. His closest allies are the two Nagle brothers, local bad boys who work for him and deal his products. He also has an addicted girlfriend Cassie, who lives with him along with her two young children. These children are one of Bryan's soft spots and he tries to smuggle them food.
There are many transients moving along this highway and a couple have come along this summer making contact with these five teens. Hana Swan arrived at the camp where Jackie works and befriended her, but she seems a dangerous girl to Leo, encouraging risky behaviour.
Kevin Seven is a magician, specializing in card tricks, who has taken a room at the motel where Ursie works and who starts to have an influence on her.
As a fire starts near the town and everyone plans for the worst, things seem to get more intense, and the five teens find themselves drawn into danger and risky situations.
The story of these people is woven through with the legends, the philosophy of the unseen, and the terrible truth of the highway. An amazing read.
Profile Image for Anna Janelle.
155 reviews36 followers
July 8, 2014
Much like Brittany, I find myself saying - "Whoops, I did it again." I let far too much time pass in between the reading of the book and my writing of my review. NetGalley, like the good (urm, lapsed) Catholic girl I am, I hereby proffer my knuckles to you for a swift rapping with your stiffest ruler. I received this gut-wrenchingly good book for free in exchange for my honest opinion, and I sat on the review. Shame on me. My sincere apologies.

This book was stunning. I requested it a few months back after reading fellow GoodReader karen's review. I was not disappointed in the least. It was a gritty yet tender story of a marginalized group of teenagers living on the edge of society, trying to make sense of a series of frightening, racially-motivated unsolved abductions. (Coincidentally, this work of fiction was based on the still unsolved and prosecuted murders of aboriginal girls and women along the Highway of Tears in British Columbia.) The resulting story doesn't focus solely on these particular crimes, but the abductions occurring in the background of the plot serve to create a palpible atmosphere of tension, mistrust and desperation. The unraveling of these character's lives unfolds before the reader like a slow motion Rube Goldberg machine... that breaks your heart. All of the characters were drawn with such compassion and tenderness; the glaring poverty of their everyday existence is almost unimaginable. I say almost - because Harun is such an adept author that she pulls the reader right down into the squalid middle of the characters' plight, forcing them to sweat in crowded, smokey hotel rooms where illegal poker games are being fixed, making them fidget with hunger pangs as children scavenge stolen leftovers, asking them to feel the throbbing ache of alienation of the aboriginal people of B.C. It was horribly beautiful. It is one of my new favorites.

Once again, thanks (and apologies) are extended to NetGalley. This was a reading experience that I would have sorely missed had I not discovered it on your digital shelves.
Profile Image for Avonlea Rose.
157 reviews24 followers
March 14, 2017
(Yes, I'm still working on gathering my thoughts about this book. Expect more updates to this.)


At times, beautifully narrated; but an inauthentic piece of writing.


It began to niggle at me in those first few chapters; and continued to expand into complete confusion. It's clear that Adrienne Harrun is not actually from here. Maybe she's one of those "senior climbers come for a camping trip from the city or the exiled Bavarian wife," but "the way we see this place is different." It seems that she knew this might be an issue and tried to avoid it by telling us that, no, it's not Smithers or Terrace. But it is supposed to be BC nonetheless and "See, you know us. Or, think you do."

I got trapped up on "Collateral Damage." One of my favourite lines is in here. We are at the hospital.She says: "'Welcome,' this place seemed to say, 'let's screw with you a little more.'" Now that's funny.

But we don't have "clientele" here. Not unless you're visiting one of those quack doctors or maybe you live in a senior's village ? They're patients. It's pretty bad when people who are actually from where you're trying to describe have to use Google, because they're not sure they know what you're talking about. Like, what's a holding centre? That sounds like something in a jail. Do we have those in our hospitals? I mean, I've been detained in hospitals before, but I've never been in one. And do we have exam rooms in hospitals? I thought I'd be lucky if I just got a room, period. Who or what are aides? Is that like something in a retirement home? I am confounded. What is happening in this place?

In fairness, maybe there's a hospital or clinic somewhere in this province that is run entirely different to what I've ever experienced. Still, Harun has set herself up for trouble by trying to cross multiple barriers: she is trying to write the voice of a "poor" native-Canadian teenaged boy; and, at least as far as I know, that she is not. It jars the reader from being able to immerse themself into the story, for anyone who will notice it. It's there in the way she calls shopping bags "sacks" (does anyone from around here actually say that?) or refers to the teacher as "professor." The missing "u"s in the word "colour." The fact she doesn't understand how our hospital wait rooms work - nobody here is going to complain they don't know where they are in the queue; that's the whole point. Someone else will have shown up after you, but get seen first, because they are more injured. It's not an exception; it's a rule.

One of the worst examples is that she utilizes the phrase "that famous highway" over and over again. Would anyone say that? And not just "the highway"? The trans-Canada? Route 16? This phrase makes it clear that an outsider is writing this piece; but she has chosen a first person perspective.

But let's get to the important point about this clunky narrative choice: Harun says at the back that our serial killer situation is "a situation that needs as much light as can be shined upon it." That is, she wants us to believe that she is just raising awareness to an important issue. That's nice, except it's bollocks. Nobody in B.C. needs somebody from the south to draw our attention to Robert Pickton or Cody Legebokoff or any of the other serial killers or the fact that the RCMP take their sweet ass time when people go missing around here. We already know. And there isn't any new information you can tell us we don't already know. Why not just be honest and admit that you're capitalizing on our notoriety for poverty and having serial killers along our highways to make up a great story?

By Harun's own admission, this book isn't really about any of that - she's just using it as a backdrop to tell another, larger story, so could she stop pretending to be noble then? If anything, it seems to me that Harun is just generating confusion by pretending to care about Native people. Last I checked, only about half of the cases the RCMP include in the Highway of Tears cases are actually Native. That's not to say, of course that they couldn't be mostly Native - because Northerners claim there are many more that the RCMP have not included. But Haran's description is to say only "aboriginal women" are going missing (pg. 177: "Two girls on the shoulder, the tall one propelled forward [...] the other girl - her white, white skin glowing - strolls") is not true. She makes it sound like Route 16 is an exceptional case, which is also not true. And that can be an important distinction.

Because, of course, Canada as a whole has an issue with sexualized violence and with missing and murdered Native women whose cases have sometimes been mishandled; but, in trying to compact that issue into the Highway of Tears case, she has actually just compressed the issue and made it seem smaller and more like a unique case to her readership than it actually is. She makes it sound as if there is *a* serial killer on the loose who specifically targets Native women (and not "white") along this particular stretch of highway. In reality, Native women are perhaps just more likely to live in rural, secluded areas (although, again, Harun misrepresents because most victims are taken or murdered in urban areas; and more than half of Native women murdered die within a residential dwelling according to Nwac) or they could disproportionately represent those working in the sex trade or those who have addictions. And none of that is specific to BC. Again, it's an important distinction- because our problem is not one of racist serial killers. It's about overarching socioeconomic issues and systematic discrimination.

Canada was asked multiple times to launch an inquiry, which it has only recently done. (https://www.aadnc-aandc.gc.ca/eng/144...). When I was growing up, I remember an officer on the news explaining that it is the policy of the Vancouver P.D. to handle "priority" cases first - "high risk" victims' cases were typically shelved; that is, prostitutes, drug users, and Natives. Somehow Harun has managed to glorify that - when she decided she could forego facts without removing context, and focus instead on portraying the "emotional" impacts of our Highway of Tears, as she stated in an interview, failing to understand she knows nothing of the emotions of the women who are impacted.

To provide a specific example, let's look at the denouement-

Page 254: "A search-and-rescue team made a desultory attempt to find Jackie and Hana Swann. No one believed they were out there. The police were positive Jackie had simply run off." The paragraph this quote is taken from is the just about the whole summary of how Jackie's case is handled, and it tells us that her friends "knew" that she was dead. How does any reader think this short paragraph compares to the actual experiences of families who have waited for years for the RCMP to locate their loved ones' bodies? In many of the cases, however, bodies have actually been found - stabbed, beaten, strangled .. does Harun think this summarization adequately portrays the "emotional" effects?

Harun continues on the same page to say that "the single bullet Ursie fired had, of course, unerringly found its mark. Even the judge, considering the evidence [...] and Tessa's bruised body, agreed it was in self-defense." Does this not gloss over the issues women are facing? In Harun's make believe world, women can defend themselves and get away with it, too .. if they're tough enough, of course.

Beyond these core issues are some excellent pieces of writing. The chapter the book is named after is one of the best examples of Harun's propensity for great narrative-

"A man came came out of a door in the mountain, a flawless leafy camouflage of earthen colour and sun splashes, a door so deep within the brush and swallow of forest and rock, creased and folded and bent into seemingly impassable shape [...]"

That's some beautiful description, and the whole book is written with fantastic mood and descriptive technique. Harun does have something important to say with this piece; but the lack of an authentic voice ruined it for me and her decisions through the revision process pose what I think is an ethical issue.
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