I have loved most of what Tim O'Brien has written during his career, but have been procrastinating about reading this one. While "Northern Lights" seems to have a sense of direction, it never goes anywhere.
The book starts out with a favorite son returning home as a wounded war veteran. In these earliers chapters, there are elements of the story that remind me of "The Deer Hunter". Small town decay is coupled with a general sense of apathy in a well imagined portion of the book. Harvey, the returning war veteran, finds his brother Perry haunted by the past and crippled by past decisions.
Perry hopes to help his brother find something he lost in the war by acccompanying him an a winter wilderness ski-trek. Getting lost amid a blizzard occupies much of the rest of the story. The pace of the book goes from "The Deer Hunter" to "The Call of the Wild". Flashbacks are scattered among the stories of survival in the snow.
At some point, the reader may find his/herself being less than sympathetic to the protagonists. Aside from putting themselves in a bad situation, Perry and Harvey's self-loathing can be tiresome even after an apparent resolution. As a read, it made me wish the book would end sooner.