Review: “In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond” by John Zada

Author: John Zada
Publication Date: July 2nd, 2019
Genre: Nonfiction, Travel, Nature, Canada
Format: eBook
Find it on: Amazon, Goodreads, Book Depository

Synopsis

On the central and north coast of British Columbia, the Great Bear Rainforest is the largest intact temperate rainforest in the world, containing more organic matter than any other terrestrial ecosystem on the planet. The area plays host to a wide range of species, from thousand-year-old western cedars to humpback whales to iconic white Spirit bears.

According to local residents, another giant is said to live in these woods. For centuries people have reported encounters with the Sasquatch—a species of hairy bipedal man-apes said to inhabit the deepest recesses of this pristine wilderness. Driven by his own childhood obsession with the creatures, John Zada decides to seek out the diverse inhabitants of this rugged and far-flung coast, where nearly everyone has a story to tell, from a scientist who dedicated his life to researching the Sasquatch, to members of the area’s First Nations, to a former grizzly bear hunter-turned-nature tour guide. With each tale, Zada discovers that his search for the Sasquatch is a quest for something infinitely more complex, cutting across questions of human perception, scientific inquiry, indigenous traditions, the environment, and the power and desire of the human imagination to believe in—or reject—something largely unseen.

Teeming with gorgeous nature writing and a driving narrative that takes us through the forests and into the valleys of a remote and seldom visited region, In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond sheds light on what our decades-long pursuit of the Sasquatch can tell us about ourselves and invites us to welcome wonder for the unknown back into our lives.

From Goodreads

Review

TLDR; an engaging story about the author’s adventures in the great wilderness, searching for stories and tales surrounding Sasquatch.

Did I pay $13 for a book about Sasquatches? Yes. Yes I did. And I happily report this turned out to be a good purchase despite the impulse buy! Filled with enchanting descriptions of the wilderness and fascinating stories from locals, this first person narrative shares the author’s exploration of a unique and unruly topic.

I give the author a lot of credit for choosing to tackle this subject as a nonfiction piece. A fiction story may have been much easier, providing creative liberty to speculate what meeting the creature up close might look like. Nonfiction is difficult in that when picking up a book like this, the reader might have some expectation that the author provide an opinion or conclusion on whether Sasquatches exist. I won’t give away the ending (which unfortunately I did feel was a bit of a let down), but throughout the book it did feel like quite the jugging act balancing not only gathering and sharing stories from the locals, but also describing his adventures in the pristine wilderness. There was an equally impressive balancing of local lore versus sprinklings of science (mostly psychology studies) and the author’s own internal struggles pondering the existence of Sasquatch. For the most part these were executed quite well, and the book was a very smooth read.

About half way through, I did start to wonder how the book would progress. Would it continue on at it’s current pace? Would there be some type of escalation or peak (which really isn’t strictly required for a nonfiction book)? How might John Zada choose to wrap up his story? Without giving anything away I will say there is an escalation which adds interest 2/3rds through the book. It’s not the type I expected, but the reader is in good hands with John at the helm.

Some pieces I really enjoyed about this book were first and foremost the gorgeous descriptions of his time in nature. The scenes read as truly breathtaking and made me wish there were photos accompanying the book. As a psychology nerd I also enjoyed his brief diversions into human perception, functioning in various areas of the brain during stress and isolation/sensory deprivation, and the role of bias and pre-conditioning. Finally, a cherry on top that appeared out of the blue was his mentioning the Pacific Northwest (PNW), which made me recall a recent visit to the Olympic peninsula where in fact I did see references to Sasquatch I’d forgotten about.

Overall I enjoyed this book and would recommend to anyone who is interested in nature, curious about creatures of lore, or has watched Finding Bigfoot 😉

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