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In the Heart of the Canyon by Elisabeth Hyde
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In the Heart of the Canyon

by Elisabeth Hyde

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In the Heart of the Canyon is an accurate portrayal of a thirteen day river trip down the Grand Canyon; so much so that I felt I could have been there. Hyde effectively describes the guides, the tourists, the scenery, and of course, the Colorado River picture perfect. The character development of everyone involved in the trip builds just as if you were in the boats with them, getting to know them as the days and miles pass by. The weather (and how to deal with the heat) and surrounding nature comes alive with Hyde's words. And when it comes to rafting down the river you can tell Hyde has seen rapids and even had a "maytag" experience or two. She puts you right in the action. A story about a rafting trip down the Colorado would be enough material for a book but Hyde takes it a step further by introducing a stray dog early in the story and creating characters that are not only interesting but complex. One character in particular, seventeen year old Amy keeps a journal. Her journal gives the events described by Hyde a new perspective. She introduces a different point of view and her comments serve as a reminder that everyone has an alternate truth based on their own unique personality. It's what happens when you put twelve strangers and three guides together. ( )
  SeriousGrace | Apr 18, 2013 |
This was a very well-crafted story with interesting characters. It seemed to be a fairly realistic portrayal of what a raft trip must be like (barring the fictional license taken for narrative purposes, of course). A quick read. ( )
  sly_wit | Mar 29, 2013 |
The following statements from the book emphasize what the story meant to me:

"The fact that there was no turning back, that they could not go forward--that they were committed to the [river] run, like it or not--suddenly seemed profound...."

"'You can do it', said Don, 'because you have to do it.'"

A very powerful story, with adult themes, that I highly recommend especially if you enjoy stories set in the Grand Canyon, the American West, river runs, or outdoor adventures. I thoroughly enjoyed the story whose themes and ideas are very much present in my life. ( )
  Ocean_Mist | Mar 27, 2013 |
Perfect vacation reading for me. I've read a few books, both fiction and non-fiction, about rafting the Grand Canyon and I enjoyed spending a couple of days doing so from the comfort of a big easy chair. As usual, there were likable characters and a couple of jerks, and everyone experienced psychological growth on the trip. The descriptions of the experience and the canyon are based on real life experience and beautifully written. Yes the story is a little trite - just what I needed for relaxing. If you're more interested in non-fiction I recommend Canyon Solitude by McCairen. ( )
  mkboylan | Mar 27, 2013 |
I loved this book. It brought back so many memories of our trip down the Grand Canyon--it was so spot on in places that I kept checking the author's background, the guide company she used, etc. to see if perhaps she had been on the same trip. So much is there--the heat, the groover and the incredible beauty of the canyon. Floating in PDF-diapers down the Little Colorado, the hikes, the teasing of the guides--or their reading from books. She wove a credible story populated with real people--not as easy a feat as it seems--and brought it all to a plausible conclusion. ( )
  CaptainsGirl | Nov 21, 2010 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Elisabeth Hydeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Campbell, CassandraReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Deakins, MarkReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Book description
Meet Peter, twenty-seven, single, and looking for a quick hookup; Evelyn, a fifty-year-old Harvard professor, and Ruth and Lloyd, river veterans in their seventies. There's Mitchell, an overeager history buff with no qualms about upstaging the guides with his knowledge. There's Jill from Salt Lake City, wanting desperately to spark some sense of adventure in her staid Mormon family; and seventeen-year-old Amy, so woefully overweight that she can barely fit into a pup tent, let alone into a life jacket.

Guiding them all is JT Maroney, who loves the river with all his heart and who, having made 124 previous trips down the Colorado, thinks he has seen everything. But on their first night, a stray dog wanders into their campsite, upsetting the tentative equilibrium of this makeshift family. Over the next thirteen days, as various decisions are second-guessed and sometimes regretted, both passengers and guides find that sometimes the most daunting adventures on a Colorado River trip have nothing to do with white-water rapids, and everything to do with reconfiguring the rocky canyons of the heart.

Haiku summary

Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0307263673, Hardcover)

Book Description From the author of The Abortionist’s Daughter, a gripping new novel about a rafting trip through the Grand Canyon that changes the lives of everyone on board.

Meet Peter, twenty-seven, single, and looking for a quick hookup; Evelyn, a fifty-year-old Harvard professor; and Ruth and Lloyd, river veterans in their seventies. There’s Mitchell, an overeager history buff with no qualms about unstaging the guides with his knowledge. There’s Jill from Salt Lake City, wanting desperately to spark some sense of adventure in her staid Mormon family; and seventeen-year-old Amy, so woefully overweight that she can barely fit into a pup tent, let alone into a life jacket.

Guiding them all is JT Maroney, who loves the river with all his heart and who, having made 124 previous trips down the Colorado, thinks he has seen everything. But on their first night, a stray dog wanders into their campsite, upsetting the tentative equilibrium of this makeshift family. Over the next thirteen days, as various decisions are second-guessed and sometimes regretted, both passengers and guides find that sometimes the most daunting adventures on a Colorado River trip have nothing to do with white-water rapids, and everything to do with reconfiguring the rocky canyons of the heart.

Elisabeth Hyde on In the Heart of the Canyon

This novel was born on July 6, 2002, when I got thrown over the back of the paddle boat in Deubendorff Rapid. It’s not the biggest rapid in the Grand Canyon, but it’s no trickle either, with fifteen-foot waves colliding against each other in angry perpetuity.

We’d had an extensive briefing on the first day of the trip about what to do if you fell out of the boat. Breathe at the crest, not the trough. Trust your lifejacket. Point your feet downstream. These days, the Park Service allows training swims in baby rapids, but in 2002 such swims weren’t permitted, so you had to learn by, well, falling overboard.

We were on Day 8 of our trip, and with a dozen or so big rapids behind us, I was in a kind of “Hey, cool, another roller-coaster ride, and have you guys noticed my shoulder muscles lately?” mode. But before I knew what happened, we were careening into a wall of water at the wrong angle, and our paddle captain’s scoutlike commands turned into war cries. “LEFT TURN!” he yelled. “Come on, paddlers—LEFT!” But it was too late. The boat reared up like that last scene in The Perfect Storm, and down I went.

It was like my first labor, in the sense I completely forgot all the instructions. There is really no way to practice having a baby or swimming a rapid until you just do it. My journal later notes the “ferocious texture of bubbles” along with some force repeatedly smashing me down without letting me catch some air. Oddly, I also noted that the water wasn’t cold—which wasn’t true, for the Colorado River below Glen Canyon Dam runs a brisk forty-two degrees. But it was important for me in that adrenaline-laced state, because I’d spent half the trip being afraid not of drowning but of being cold. So here I was, getting maytagged—but at least I wasn’t cold. Phew.

I really didn’t fear for my life. I probably should have—this is big water—but drowning deaths are rare on the Colorado River, usually a result of someone not wearing a life jacket. Since I was wearing mine, I never thought I would drown. There was only one moment of true panic, when I needed air so badly I was about ready to inhale the river itself. Yet I trusted my life jacket to bring me back up, the same way I trusted my obstetrician all those years ago when he told me to push. I’ve lived long enough to know that you can do everything right and still lose, but my trust in a small piece of orange foam got me through that swim with a sense of exhilaration so strong that for months afterward I couldn’t go to sleep without replaying the swim in my mind, a kind of perverse lullaby.

John Irving once said (paraphrasing one of his own characters) that as writers we have to “get obsessed and stay obsessed.” I was so obsessed after this swim that I came home and immediately enrolled in a whitewater kayaking class, announcing my intent to kayak the Grand Canyon. (No thanks, said my lower back.) I wrote long goofy poems, subscribed to rafting magazines, and peppered my office with snapshots of the trip. Gradually I realized this obsession had to be channeled into a novel.

And so JT found his way into my world. And Evelyn, bless her neurotic little soul. And Amy, with all her body issues; and Mitchell, who while I was swimming Deubendorff was probably reading everything he could on John Wesley Powell. I give great thanks to this party of travelers. If it weren’t for them, I’d still be in that kayak class, ruining my back while trying to master an Eskimo roll. —Elisabeth Hyde

(Photo © Joan Simon)

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:03:48 -0400)

(see all 4 descriptions)

Peter, twenty-seven and unemployed, embarks on this journey to avoid his family, while Evelyn, a fifty-year-old biology professor, comes in search of a more visceral life. Ruth and Lloyd, veteran white-water rafters in their seventies, know they will never make this trip again. Jill, a stay-at-home mother with her husband and two boys in tow, craves the luxury of relinquishing control and following someone else's rules. Mitchell and his wife, Lena, are re-creating a historic river journey undertaken years before. Seventeen-year-old Amy Van Doren and her mother set off on this journey expecting little, especially from each other; together they will face the most daunting journey of all, one that has nothing to do with whitewater rapids.… (more)

» see all 5 descriptions

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