It all starts with an impossibly large set of tracks, footprints for a creature that could not possibly exist. The words sasquatch, bigfoot and yeti never occur in this novel, but that is what most people would call the hairy, nine-foot creature that would become a lifelong obsession for Aidan Fitzpatrick, and in turn, his granddaughter Sandy Langley.
The novel spans the course of single winter day, interspersed with memories from Sandy’s life—childhood days spent with her distracted, scholarly grandfather in a remote cabin in British Columbia’s interior mountains; later recollections of new motherhood; and then the tragic disappearance that would irrevocably shape the rest of her life, a day when all signs of the mysterious creature would disappear for thirty years. When the enigmatic tracks finally reappear, Sandy sets out on the trail alone, determined to find out the truth about the mystery that has shaped her life.
The Wild Heavens is an impressive and evocative debut, containing beauty, tragedy and wonder in equal parts.
About the author
Sarah Louise Butler has published short fiction in Room magazine. She has a degree in Physical Geography and volunteer experience in wildlife research. This is her first novel. She lives with her son in Nelson, BC.
Excerpt: The Wild Heavens (by (author) Sarah Louise Butler)
“Aiden crested a ridge and froze in place, heart pounding. It was right there in its own tracks, not twenty yards away. It was covered in grizzled brown fur and it stood upright, broad-shouldered and a good nine feet tall. It turned to face him, its features were both simian and human and it regarded him with a calm, perceptive curiosity. He could only stare mutely, his fear held loosely—ready to grasp but at arm’s length—because his primary impression was not that the creature was frightening, but that it was magnificent, miraculous. It was impossible, and yet there it stood.”
“The Wild Heavens is wonderfully crafted—each page is a catch of the breath, each chapter a crush of unfolding magic. This novel is why we read. I wanted to begin again as soon as I finished the last line.”
Richard Van Camp, author of <i>Moccasin Square Gardens</i>
“[The Wild Heavens] challenge readers to rethink the narration of Canadian histories, familial and socio-political...The novel explores the limits of knowing, and Charlie’s confusing and sometimes faint tracks are potent reminders of this.”
Julie Cairnie, <i>Canadian Literature</i>
“The Wild Heavens is a stunning meditation on the imprints we all leave on this strange world. Butler weaves a beautiful observation of nature’s shadowy crevices that mystify and intrigue us.”
Jennifer Manuel, author of <i>The Heaviness of Things that Float</i>
“The Wild Heavens is not magic realism. It’s closer to science realism. But it explores the mystery of life. It’s one of those stories that’s bigger than the sum of its parts.”
Cherie Thiessen, <i>BC Bookworld</i>
“With a rare combination of intelligence, passion, and grace, Sarah Louise Butler immerses readers in a mountain wilderness fully alive in every vivid, meticulously rendered detail. The Wild Heavens offers a profound meditation on absence, transformation, connection, and love. The story of Sandy’s quest makes for a beautiful debut and a touching tribute to life’s most elusive mysteries.”
Angie Abdou, author of <i>In Case I Go</i>
“In The Wild Heavens, Sarah Louise Butler demonstrates an astonishing ability to mix an intense and precise attention to detail regarding the natural world and family life with a powerful and convincing evocation of the inexplicable occurrences and essential mysteries that are aspects of both. Set amid the forests of B.C.’s southern Interior, and depicting a fractured but resilient family, her tale nevertheless speaks truths than apply to any landscape and any household. The result is a gripping read: Butler’s accomplished command of style and story invites readers in and shows them marvels.”
Tom Wayman, author of <i>My Father's Cup</i> and <i>Dirty Snow</i>
“Although The Wild Heavens takes place in one day in the immediate present, it encompasses a lifetime of an obsession with the mystery of life and death, that of the known world and the unknown. The narrative is grounded in the author’s extensive knowledge of the BC interior and this gives the quest that drives the story veracity and resonance.”
William Valgardson, author of <i>In Valhalla's Shadow</i>
“The deeply atmospheric writing represents a pre-existing world in the Canadian Gothic tradition, which side-steps becoming hackneyed as some speculative fiction can be. Instead, Butler does a masterful job of leaving certain things unsaid. She understands that putting labels to things can break the magic, and that the space between the words is where the real power of this story resides.”
Allie Turner, <i>NUVO Magazine</i>
“Drawing from elements of the archetypal quest, the romance, the mystery, and the coming-of-age story, this novel is above all a testament to the interdependence of the human and the more-than-human—and a timely reminder that, if there is a dominant power, it is not us. For the energy of its female-driven journey into (super) natural BC interior spaces, Sarah Louise Butler’s The Wild Heavens deserves a place in the august company of writers such as Wilson, Kishkan, and Anderson-Dargatz.”
Ginny Ratsoy, <i>The Ormsby Review</i>
“One of Moby Dick’s quotable lines—‘for there is no folly of the beast of the earth which is not infinitely outdone by the madness of men’—seems fitting for The Wild Heavens, an appealing novel about dicey quests. Unexpectedly, debut author Sarah Louise Butler extracts philosophical juice from the hokey legend of the sasquatch and imbues a story of family and loss with that thoughtful substance. She also sets a captivating plot in motion.”
Brett Josef Grubisic, <i>Vancouver Province</i>