I've been reading K.A. Tucker's books for...well, years. I've been lucky enough to meet her a handful of times and she's a wonderful person on top of being an excellent writer. I love every book of hers I've read. But this last one? The Simple Wild is, hands down, my favourite of all of her books. It may even be one of my favourite books of the year.
Here's the synopsis:
Calla Fletcher wasn't even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla’s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren’s days may be numbered, she knows that it’s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.I'm usually the type of reader who likes to read about characters who could be my friend - particularly when reading contemporary novels. It's a narrow viewpoint to have, I know, but I just love it when I can tell I'd be BFFs with the heroine. I don't think Calla and I would be immediate friends - we're quite different. But that was ok. I was wary of her - just like everyone in Alaska was - but eventually I realized she is more than her appearance and had a heart of gold is tucked under all the Instagram filters and expensive clothes. I am so with her on roughing it though. I would not have been impressed with missing suitcases or being stranded in a cabin for awhile without running water. I don't even like camping! But I digress. Calla is a wonderfully layered character who I fell in love with in the end.
She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional—dear God—outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can’t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah—the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father’s charter plane company operational—can’t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he’s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she’s too pampered to handle the wild.
Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it’s replaced by friendship—or perhaps something deeper? But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried—and failed at—years ago. It’s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.
And, as much as Calla was the heroine in this story, she didn't get all the focus. Every other character you meet is important - even if it's just a fleeting passing moment at the grocery store (I choose that character to reference in particular because her name was Kayley and I maintain Tucker should have dropped that middle 'y'). Jonah, Wren (Calla's dad), Agnes, and Mabel add so much depth to the story and I can't imagine the novel without them or the other supporting characters. I do find it interesting that I got more of a feel for Simon, Calla's step-father, than I did of her mom. I don't know if it was intentional. Her mom was the reason they left Alaska after all when Calla was so young. I also wonder if there was more of a comparison to be made between Simon and Wren that made way for an eventual acceptance that both men can be father figures to Calla.
I found The Simple Wild to be a much more emotional book than Tucker has written in the past. I finished the last part of the book at work on my lunch break even though I knew I was going to be hit with a few emotional gut punches. Yes, I could have waited to finish it at home where I could actually allow myself to shed a few tears but I couldn't wait that long to see how Calla's story finished off. I was so tangled up in the stories and emotions Tucker had written that I needed to know how it was resolved even though I knew it was going to break my heart. I was so invested in this book and found myself thinking of it often throughout the day when I wasn't reading it. I was so into it that it actually helped me get my butt out of bed at 5am to be in Toronto for 9am because I knew I'd have an hour-ish train ride to read Calla's story. I am not a morning person so this was a hella powerful book.
Speaking of Toronto, this is the first of Tucker's books to be set (partially) in Canada, where both she and I live. There aren't enough contemporary novels set in Canada so I'm always thrilled when I find one that is. I especially love when it's set somewhere that I recognize. In the first few pages, Calla is heading home on the TTC - which is what the Toronto public transit system is called. I don't live in Toronto but I've been on the subway enough (and a streetcar a time or two) that I could see and feel exactly what Calla was seeing and feeling. I also giggled when I realized the two giant raccoons that were terrorizing Calla's Toronto home were most likely named Tim and Sid after two sports talk show hosts.
And that cover? Sa-woon.
I don't know what else I can really say about The Simple Wild. I loved it so much and it left a serious imprint on my heart. If you've never read any of K.A. Tucker's books (seriously, what are you waiting for?) I highly encourage you to pick this one up if you can afford it or borrow it from your library. It's wonderful and well written and just...great. And once you read it can we please talk about it? Because I'm not ready to let Calla, Jonah, and Wren go.
*An ARC of this novel was provided by the publisher, Simon & Schuster Canada, in exchange for review consideration. All opinions are honest and my own.*