Book Review: “The Signal” by Ron Carlson

This is a novella, first published in 2009, but was located in the new releases section of the library. The story starts out slowly with great descriptive narrative of the Wyoming landscape as Mack and his ex-wife trek deep into the wild to fish. This is their last planned meeting. His wife, Vonnie, has already moved on and has a boyfriend, but Mack has languished, first into drugs, then into prison. He still loves her, but Vonnie doesn’t feel the same. The first four chapters of the book detail their hike to some lakes to fish and nothing much happens. I was about to lose patience with the story, but in chapter 5, action appears. Mack’s old life of drugs and illegal activity comes back to haunt him even this deep into the wild. The book ends in chapter 6.

I didn’t quite buy Vonnie’s story in the beginning when she told him that she no longer loved him. Something drew her to this trip and it wasn’t the landscape. It was clearly evident that Mack wanted her back, but he wasn’t going to push her. The author doesn’t clearly state how the relationship goes on, but it’s clear they have affection for each other.

The title refers to the signal to Mack’s Blackberry phone way up in the mountains. Sometimes, he gets a signal and sometimes, he doesn’t. And it has nothing to do with Vonnie but with a chance for him to make ten thousand dollars. That doesn’t sit well with her either.

Once I got through the first four chapters, I enjoyed this book, but there wasn’t much left to enjoy. It was a short book.


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