Published by Henry Holt & Co. on Jan. 27, 2015
Genres: Literary Fiction, Magical Realism
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When Eli Roebuck is nine years old, he watches his mother walk off into the woods with a gigantic, hairy hominid (or possibly hominin) named Mr. Krantz, never to return. For the rest of his life, Eli is obsessed with Sasquatch. Haunted by Mr. Krantz’s enormous footprints, he eventually becomes a podiatrist, and he spends his leisure time hunting for the creature that led Eli’s mother to abandon him. The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac follows Eli through the decades, taking side trips into the lives of his wives, daughters, mother, and even the elusive Mr. Krantz himself.
I was immediately drawn in by the odd premise of this book, but I was surprised by how much I loved it. Although it’s labeled a novel, it read more like a collection of linked short stories moving forward through time than a cohesive narrative. Although this led to the book feeling slightly uneven, I really enjoyed this technique. There are few things I love more than a story collection with some quirky magical realism a la Karen Russell and Lucy Wood, and The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac rang all of my bells.
The world Sharma Shields builds around Eli’s Idaho town is delightfully weird. His first wife, Gladys, stumbles upon a shop that can only be seen by people who need it, where she buys an ugly patchwork hat to disastrous consequences. His teenage daughter, Amelia, has an encounter with a lake monster after running away with an older man. Much later, his second daughter, Ginger, makes a deal with a Spanish gypsy that she regrets for decades, until she gains absolution after hitting a unicorn with her car. This world is full of magical creatures, and we even follow one character into the afterlife, where The Fates tell him he must decide what unfinished business he wants to resolve.
The Sasquatch Hunter’s Almanac is a strange, original novel about obsession, family, and the demons we all face. It manages to be a fun, surreal read without sacrificing depth, and I won’t be forgetting about it any time soon.
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