This is a story that captures the reader's attention and creates difficulty in leaving the book alone. Written in the style of a mystery, this novel is devoid of figurative language that would slow the reader to contemplate the beauty of the words. It is action-filled and fast reading. Most of the story is set in eastern North Dakota in and around a city named Cheneau Valley, which is actually Valley City. Author Gary A. Friedly talked about Valley City in an interview after he completed the novel: "During a trip through North Dakota, I was stopped by a high railroad bridge that passed over a river and town," he said. "Valley City was the perfect setting for a story. I subscribed to the newspaper; I talked with the locals, listened to the radio, studied the landscape and watched the weather. I knew more about their town than my own. I couldn't hide my enthusiasm. I talked to state officials in Bismarck. I talked to folks in Fargo. When the town was evacuated and threatened by a flood, I didn't sleep at night until I learned the town survived. This story is about surviving. There are many characters spread out from Seattle to the Twin Cities. They all converge on Valley City." The novel contains 14 chapters, which are divided into several first-person narratives on the title's topic. In the beginning, I wasn't sold on the technique, but it didn't take me long to catch on. The main characters are young men who have just graduated from high school within the last year or week. Trevor Jensen grows up in an affluent family in Seattle. His parents are professionals, and he and his sisters are able to develop their talents in ballet and music. Trevor is expected to attend an Ivy League college, but he rejects his parents' wishes and signs on to work on "an upscale passenger train" for one year. As a member of the night crew, his assignments cover the area between Seattle and Minneapolis. Travis Olsen grows up on a farm near Cheneau Valley and graduates from high school in an eventful week. He signs to play basketball for the North Dakota State University Bison for the next school term. He and four of his friends were the starters for the last Class A state championship basketball team. He received two prestigious awards for his basketball skills: Mr. Basketball and the Coaches Trophy for outstanding senior athlete. The author skillfully builds our suspicions as to how these two young men from distant cities will meet, and we begin to dread what the outcome will be. Friedly's familiarity with the rural culture stood out to me. The reader is drawn into the Cheneau Valley community as it wraps its arms around its young people. It reminded me of my community and how protective we feel of our young people and how proud we are of their accomplishments. As I read, I admired the expertise the author showed in portraying the youthful characters he created. We are introduced to the strengths and character flaws of each young man. We meet their families and discover their unique circumstances and how they fit into the community. The rescue and aftershocks were so realistic that I would recommend all high school students spend time with this book. Often students have no idea what far-reaching effects their actions can have. This easy-to-read novel is a tragedy that could happen and does happen in any of our small rural communities. The novel is written using straightforward language. There is no sensationalism as far as vulgar language or sexuality. The story would be a good one for youth or just about anyone else. --By Rita Greff, Bismarck Tribune, April 13, 2010
About the Author
Gary A. Friedly
had a long career working as a laboratory scientist at the University of California, Irvine Medical Center. During his tenure there, he did technical writing and was a participant in several research projects. His work has been published in several scientific journals.