Bainbridge Island author Jonathan Evison’s newest novel, Legends of the North Cascades, is set to be released June 8, a story that follows a grieving and PTSD-stricken veteran who has reached the limits of his forbearance for the civilized world and, with his perceptive and precocious 7-year-old daughter, moves off the grid into the wilds of the Pacific Northwest.
“It’s a story about two single parents trying to support their children in the same region fourteen-thousand-years apart,” Evison said. “Both parents, one a father, and one a mother, are forced into extraordinary circumstances by the mounting pressures of the outside world. Both families undertake a journey in search of a more sustainable, authentic life. Much difficulty and adventure ensues. The mysteries of life and death converge.”
Evison said he wrote the book in 2018 so he didn’t see what was coming to the world in terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, but self-isolation is a major theme in the novel, “specifically our yearning or necessity to isolate ourselves, pitted against our need for community.”
“I guess you could say the novel is prescient in that respect, but the truth is I’ve always been preoccupied with the theme,” he said. “Legends is also a book about surviving trauma, and finding a path forward; about how trauma can cloud our ability to make rational decisions, even when our good intentions are so clear to us. But maybe more than anything the book is about the fierce, maddening, unparalleled, and ever-shifting love between parent and child.”
The story idea came to fruition as Evison wanted to write a love story to the “grandeur and brutality of the North Cascades,” a region that has some of the most rugged backcountries in North America.
“I’ve long been preoccupied with the idea of living off the grid and walking away from society,” he said. “Also, since I love to write narratives that defy convention, I wanted to push the boundaries of a bifurcated timeline as far as I could. I’ve done a hundred years, I’ve done two hundred, so why not try fourteen thousand years?”
Evison said the story isn’t specifically derived from anything he’s experienced personally but he can relate to the emotions of a parent who goes into protecting your children and wanting the best for them. “I love my children fiercely, and I yearn for them to live authentically,” he said. “I worry for them constantly. I protect them to the best of my ability.”
Evison reflected on the hard work Legends took and why he’s excited for people to read it.
“I’ve always looked at writing stories as a partnership between the writer and the reader,” he said. “I’m not writing in a vacuum. The whole conceit of writing a novel, at least for me, is to connect with somebody at the other end. It’s a dance, and until somebody reads it, I’m dancing alone.
“One of the great challenges of being a writer is trying to create this dialogue when the other party isn’t present yet,” Evison went on to say. “Trying to anticipate the reader’s sensations, trying to predict the conclusions they will draw given the information you’ve provided them is the most thrilling aspect of writing stories for me.”
This is Evison’s sixth novel. His first one was All About Lulu (2008), followed by West of Here (2011), The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (2012), This is Your Life, Harriet Chance! (2015), and Lawn Boy (2018). Evison is on schedule to release another one next year called Small World.
Eagle Harbor Books will be hosting an event with Evison June 9 at 7 p.m. to celebrate the release of Legends. Evison’s publicist Stephanie Mendoza said there’s a chance the event will be in-person with limited capacity but that will be determined by the bookstore.