Book talks for readers at Chisago Lakes Middle School.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Leepike Ridge by N.D. Wilson

(Persistant images haunted my mind as I read this adventure story. My imagination borrowed continually from an article I looked at way back from the Sept. 2006 issue of National Geographic. Pictures from a cave exploration expedition helped me visualize some of the conditions the main character encounters in this book.)

In some ways Thomas Hammond is lucky. He has been able to grow-up next to a mountain called Leepike Ridge. A river runs right by his house. He has a world of fishing and exploring right below his window, as long as he doesn't get hurt climbing down. His home is unique in that it sits chained on top of a slab of rock. Imagine climbing dozens of nearly vertical stairs to knock on his door. Thomas probably felt he lived on top of the world. He didn't mind the climb but the delivery men with the new refrigerator weren't too happy at the sight of those stairs.

In some other significant ways Tom Hammond is not quite so fortunate. His dad died awhile back and he doesn't appreciate his mom's new boyfriend, especially after he proposes marriage to her. Trying not to throw-up at the thought of her marrying this guy, Tom attempts to work through his anger and takes a walk by himself along the river in the middle of the night. He comes across the foam packing that the refrigerator was packed in and uses it as a float. He lays down on it and pushes off into the water while he mulls over the day's dark events. The ride is comforting and peaceful as the slow moving current gently carries him along. His thoughts quiet down and his attention drifts to the stars in the sky above. He wonders about the fact that there are just as many stars beneath him as are above him... before he slips into a deep slumber.

Asleep, Thomas floats down the river, past the bend marking his farthest exploration. He floats all the way to Nestor's place, where the river dives into the side of the mountain like water being sucked into an intake for a hydroelectric dam. When he realizes what is happening, it's too late. Tom's suddenly on a ride for his life. After Leepike Ridge swallows him he's immediately shot down into subterranean channels, rapids and waterfalls. The terrific force of water he battles finally ejects him into a large pool within a totally dark cavern. Despite severe bleeding from a head wound, Tom survives, still clutching the piece of foam. He gradually washes up on some gravel, unconscious.

When he wakes up he doesn't recognize the putrid stench emanating from something laying next him. A corpse a few days old lays there welcoming Tom to his new home.

Soon, the town newspaper reports: "Mountain Rivers Claim Another Victim!" Apparently Thomas was seen being pulled down by the river current into the side of the mountain that night. Who reported the information?

How were these witnesses, who may have been trespassing on Nestor's land, come to be at this exact same place exactly at the moment in time Tom disappeared into Leepike Ridge?

Did these witnesses do all they could to rescue Thomas?

Even after many discouraging days with no news of Tom's whereabouts, his mom doesn't believe he's dead, but what evidence can she cling to? What reason could she possibly point to for hope?

If you like survival stories with a twist of mystery thrown in, then you'll enjoy Leepike Ridge, by N.D. Wilson.

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