The Canyon features a narrator with exceptionally observant powers struggling to find his place in the world.
Scotty, the fourteen-year-old narrator of Stanley Crawford’s novel The Canyon, is a keen observer of life. “Life” in this case consists primarily of summers spent in the late 1940s with his family at a remote lodge in Colorado, near his father’s failing silver mine. Virtually the entire novel is set in and around the lodge, centering on Scotty’s experience of the natural landscape and the mysterious world of adults around him. His emerging awareness of himself and his effect on others forms the core of this lyrical and quietly compelling story.
A series of houseguests visit the lodge, including his aunt Ruby, his uncle Walter, and his young cousin Mickey. They’re followed by the Slatters, of greater interest to Scotty due to the presence of Rosalind, their teenage daughter. He attempts without success to draw her out (her passion is reading Dickens and other classic writers), while also becoming increasingly conscious of the strains his parents are experiencing due to problems connected with the mine. He’s free to explore the canyon’s abundant beauty, but the grown-ups who stay at the lodge are mired in concerns beyond his ken: “Adults didn’t possess these things because they moved too unheedingly through the landscape, they didn’t notice, they no longer apparently saw, touched, heard.” Adulthood represents a world Scotty instinctively wishes to fend off for as long as possible.
In a novel where the narrator observes more than he acts, it’s important that secondary characters come alive—and here Crawford succeeds admirably. Aunt Ruby is wonderfully acerbic about the shortcomings of others. The Nesbitts, yet another visiting family, bring along a teenage boy named Frankie, who’s well drawn as Scotty’s bullying nemesis. Scotty’s mother, too delicate for life’s ups and downs, is also sympathetically portrayed. And while his family’s downward fortunes are mostly hinted at (beyond the purview of even such an observant child as Scotty), an ominous undertone to life in the lodge brings needed tension to the narrative.
The Canyon features a narrator with exceptionally observant powers struggling to find his place in the world. Fans of coming-of-age stories will likely enjoy becoming immersed in Scotty’s perspective and reveling in their own long-lost memories of childhood.
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