Read Touch by Alexi Zentner Online


In Sawgamet, a north woods boomtown gone bust, the cold of winter breaks the glass of the schoolhouse thermometer, and the dangers of working in the cuts are overshadowed by the mysteries and magic lurking in the woods. Stephen, a pastor, is at home on the eve of his mother's funeral, thirty years after the mythic summer his grandfather returned to the town in search of hiIn Sawgamet, a north woods boomtown gone bust, the cold of winter breaks the glass of the schoolhouse thermometer, and the dangers of working in the cuts are overshadowed by the mysteries and magic lurking in the woods. Stephen, a pastor, is at home on the eve of his mother's funeral, thirty years after the mythic summer his grandfather returned to the town in search of his beloved but long-dead wife. And like his grandfather, Stephen is forced to confront the losses of his past.Touch introduces you to a world where monsters and witches oppose singing dogs and golden caribou, where the living and the dead part and meet again in the crippling beauty of winter and the surreal haze of summer....

Title : Touch
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780393079876
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 272 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

Touch Reviews

  • Lyn
    2018-12-24 11:49

    A very good book.Alexi Zentner’s 2012 short novel about four generations of a family in western Canada in the late 1800s reminded me of a northern One Hundred Years of Solitude. While it does not have the scope or breadth of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ masterpiece, Zentner’s inspired prose was a great pleasure to read.Most striking is Zentner’s use of magic realism with the raw edges of paranormal fantasy as he introduces elements of Inuit myth and legend into his frontier tale. With language, setting and themes reminiscent of early Jack London and Algernon Blackwood, Zentner has crafted a tale of brutal extremes as a family settles and lays claim to a village in Canada’s wild west.As Stephen’s mother lays dying, the man looks back over his lifetime and before, tracing stories of his father and grandfather as the family settled a gold mining town and stayed past the boom and made a living logging and supplying the miners before 1900. Revisiting the family legends of his past, Stephen draws the reader into his tale, describing a cold and pitiless landscape that passes a shadow’s width from another more primal world of Native American folk tales.Perhaps most compelling is Zentner’s meticulous distinction between western faith and the unforgiving representation of northern extremes and fable. Stephen and his step-father are clergy in this harsh landscape, where a moment off guard will lead to death. The author demonstrates the paper-thin veneer of faith against this harsh backdrop while also addressing the psychological and metaphysical juxtaposition with Inuit legend.Highly recommended.

  • Bonnie
    2018-12-27 13:52

    It's funny, I usually start out my reviews with a short little blurb of my own just rehashing the particulars of the story. With 'Touch' though, this story was so all over the place that I can't adequately explain it's basis; it simply eludes me. The official summary feels deceiving and makes it sound ripe with potential... but it never lived up it, that's for sure. I truly feel as if I've been hoodwinked. I blame the stunning cover! *shakes fist* But honestly, I recall going through this magical realism stage and added practically every book tagged as such. This is one of them. I'm thinking that if the author isn't Sarah Addison Allen, then I apparently don't care much for magical realism. It should be said that according to the Reading Group Discussion questions (yeah, I read them in hopes that it would clarify some things. I was wrong) this is considered more along the lines of mythical realism as it incorporates Inuit mythology. While I could say that the incorporation of mythological elements may give it a smidgen of credibility in comparison to strange magical stuff happening for no apparent reason, it was a poorly managed addition to the story. The story is centered around this small town in the Canadian wilderness which came into existence only after gold was discovered. It's a story about survival. But then out of nowhere some strange creature would pop up and it was like mental whiplash. Like the mahaha (actual creatures name, I wasn't just laughing):"They tickle you until all your breath is gone. Leave you dead, but with a smile."Holy freaky shit. That's the stuff of nightmares. But I was intrigued and wanted to know more so I googled this scary beasty with the funny name. The page I found described the mahaha in basically the exact same way the author did in the book. Like it was copied. And that kind of killed the cool out of it. To me, magical realism IS the story, it's incorporated and intertwined into the very fabric of the story. But all the magical elements in Touch felt like a strange and ill-fitting addition that was added as an afterthought to an otherwise contemporary tale of survival. The writing style itself, apart from the actual story, was lacking a much needed finesse. The tale was not linear and bounced all over the place without any indication as to whether we were back in the present tense or still being told the story of the past. The point of view was a poor choice as well. The grandson is the narrator retelling his grandfather's story. Why not just have the grandfather tell his own story? Even though the grandfather told him his story it seemed unlikely that he would know as many details as he did. There were also strange leaps to other characters and telling the story through there eyes which definitely made it implausible as his grandfather wasn't even present in those instances. While the writing reflected definite potential, it was too unpolished for me to enjoy. I can't remember the last time (if ever) I finished a novel and honestly had absolutely no clue the purpose or meaning of it. So much of this story was too farcical in its inconceivability for me to garner any sort of entertainment. Many people have lauded this book for it's eerie, haunting qualities but ultimately this left me chilled for all the wrong reasons.

  • Gienna
    2018-12-25 17:04

    Plucked this slim novel on a whim from the new books table at the library; knew absolutely nothing about book or author. A happy happenstance--it is one of the most memorable books I've read in a while. Alexi Zentner eases you into the narrative, enchants with superb story-telling, and introduces the magical elements slowly and subtly as the plot progresses. A plain-spoken and earnest narrator makes it easy for to suspend disbelief and get lost in the vivid and mesmirizing landscape, characters, story.The setting itself is a major character--a harsh, even deadly landscape populated by ghosts and demons. I did look quickly at some of the other reviews of this book and saw that severalcomplained the author broke the "first rule of writing" (show, don't tell). But rules are meant to be broken. And this is, after all, a story about story-telling--about the power and intimacy of oral histories passed down from generation to generation. How else would you convey that except in the form of a (fairy-like) tale?

  • Lukas (LukeLaneReads)
    2018-12-25 15:04

    Multi-generational family drama mixed together with Inuit mythology, which was fascinating.Google a qalupalik to be slightly creeped out.

  • Mark Rice
    2018-12-20 11:00

    Touch is the sort of novel that Salman Rushdie might have produced if he'd been raised in the Canadian wilderness rather than India and England. Alexi Zentner's descriptive writing is as evocative and passionate as Rushdie's. Both authors' stories are rooted in the real world but contain subtle fantasy elements that are not too far-fetched to be believable. Zentner's biggest strength as a writer is his ability to describe scene, which in Touch is the forest around the Canadian town of Sawgamet. Like much true art, Zentner's writing is often paradoxical: he describes wild weather and merciless winters with moving poignancy; the people who inhabit the forest are, on the surface, as hardy as the wilderness itself, but their toughness masks a deeper humanity and fragility; magical beings such as golden caribou, shapeshifters and sea witches are, while fantastical, anchored in the very real landscape of the forest. The novel's fantasy elements are introduced with amazing subtlety, their existence not so much stated as implied. It is left to the reader to decide whether these magical phenomena are real or projected from the minds of characters influenced by local Native American lore. Zentner is a masterful storyteller whose evocative descriptions engage all the reader's senses. While reading Touch, I saw in my mind's eye vivid images of the town of Sawgamet, the mill, the ever-present river and forest which sustain life for - and take life from - the people who inhabit the region. As a debut novel, Touch is a monumental achievement. It is more than just a book that beautifully describes three generations of one family struggling against the elements. Touch contains a moral more appropriate today than ever: when humans take from the forest, the forest also takes back.

  • Carol
    2019-01-02 10:57

    Touch, by Alexi Zentner is the kind of novel I want to discuss with a friend. Though I loved the lyrical style and mythical realism (author's definition) of this story set in the harsh wilderness of northern British Columbia, I have come away with questions and may not truly understand what happened here. My plan is to go back and listen to the author interviews again and see what I can learn.There are some books that I am better off reading in large chunks rather than the bits and pieces that life sometimes allows. This is one of them. A debut, Touch is only 264 pages, so not overly long and could be read in a day or two by most readers. My week of chopped up late night reading might have done some injustice to the whole. I found myself going back and re-reading to get it. Set in the fictional town of Sawgamet, the narrator, Stephen, an Anglican pastor has come home with his family to await the imminent death of his mother. As he sits by her bedside he fills us in on the history of his forebears and the settlement of Sawgamet by his grandfather, Jeannot. Jeannot walks across the country with a dog, stolen from a witch, and establishes Sawgamet, eventually leaving this gone bust logging town only to come back later to raise his wife from the dead. Touch is a multi-layered, multi-generational tale, told in present day and flashbacks of story-telling to Stephen by both his father and grandfather. The story begins as Stephen tells us about his father, the foreman of this logging community, a job he received after a logging accident left him with no other option. The winter Stephen is ten is not unusual for Sawgamet, cold and freezing. So cold that if you chop a hole in the river for running water, it quickly freezes over. This plays out to a a horrific accident that changes the course of Stephens' life and of those around him. This scene is quite powerful and one I won't forget and yet, this may not be the most troublesome scene for some. There is more to come as winter digs in with all its brutal harshness in another piece of the story.Touch is told much like the best of folklore and I was fascinated by the creatures introduced here. They are all a bit creepy but somehow accepted, the mahaha and wehtiko, the ijirait, the adlet , were all new to me. The Qallupilluit, were somewhat familiar from a story by Robert Munsch. These are female monsters who grab children who go to close to the water or sea without their parents. Unless I'm getting confused I think Zentner gives Qallupilluit different powers. I mentioned that somehow these creatures are accepted and for me hold some delight. They are much like the characters my father would phantom in storytelling to raise the hairs on my neck as a child; the evil that lurks in the dark and might gobble me up if I was not a good girl or watchful.In addition to some very interesting human characters, the cold harsh, snowy winters are also key players. This weather sets the tone and is very atmospheric. Spanning a time frame of the late 1800's to the years of World War II, this slim novel covers many topics, logging (fascinating), gold, family, truth, love, marriage, and survival. It is about how stories are handed down from generation to generation and how those stories change in the telling, leaving us with questions of what is truth and what is myth. The author feels most stories start as truth and somehow get retold with something of the truth remaining. I agree. Touch somehow escaped me until I heard an interview with Zentner on Shelagh Rogers on The Next Chapter. I immediately sought it out and am glad I did.

  • Inoli
    2019-01-17 13:01

    Excellent protrayal of what it must have been like for the first of the European immigrants to move to the further reaches of Western Canada during the times of the several gold rushes. It's not about the populating of the land. It's not about the finding of gold. It's more about the relationship of three generations of a family with an extremely harsh, deadly environment and the spirits and creatures of an unknown land. It's a very original style of telling that I have a hard time classifying. It has elements of paranormal or perhaps fantasy or perhaps myth or perhaps one of a couple other categories but I didn't feel like it fit anywhere. Those elements were important parts of the telling and important parts of the lives of the people but they weren't focal points at all. They also didn't seem so paranormal or fantastical in context. They seemed more a true part of the history. I had a hard time eventually even considering them as myth. I'm considering this as pure historical fiction = and one of the most interesting that I've read. This is going to be reread and that's going to happen when I can read it straight through in a day or two. Two thirds of the way through I was regretting having had to take too many breaks during the reading and stretching it out to over a week. Something about it seems to require remaining more continually immersed in the story.Anyone interested in or studying the earliest expansion west of the European immigrants on this continent has to read this to get an amazing feel for the realities of the time and place.

  • Aude
    2019-01-12 16:47

    Un récit qui nous transporte dans le froid du Canada, où les chercheurs d’or et les bucherons se mêlent aux créatures mystérieuses des bois et des fleuves. Une histoire toute mignonne, emplie de la beauté de la nature du Canada, qui m’a beaucoup plu.

  • Ames
    2019-01-16 14:00

    I won this book through the Goodreads giveaway and I absolutely adored it. I'm not going to lie; I consider a lot of Canadian fiction to be excessively drab and depressing, seemingly for the sake of it, but this was a breath of fresh air. Certainly, there are depressing parts to this story, but I never felt overwhelmed by them.I particularly enjoyed the mystical aspect of the book. There are a lot of creatures from Native American/Canadian folklore scattered throughout the narrative, and I think it's important that someone writes about these things. Everyone knows about the Greek and Norse gods, but North American mythology is something that very few people seem interested in discussing. I liked that Zentner describes them as entities that live alongside human beings, and that many of the characters simply accept them as a (dangerous) fact of life, much as one would a bear in the woods. Furthermore, his chronicling of the difficulties people faced at that time in the wilderness is impressive. I, for one, tend to forget that my country was built on extreme hardship, and that people back then did not have furnaces or ploughs to help deal with the weather. The long winter Jeannot describes to Stephen will make you feel positively claustrophobic.My one complaint is that I feel like I never got the know Stephen, the narrator. He's always busy talking about his grandfather or his father, and he rarely touches on his own life. But Jeannot was more than enough to keep me engaged!

  • Pooker
    2019-01-05 13:07

    Found in my mailbox on April 24/12 (B'day surprise from DJO). Started reading this morning. Got all nostalgic with memories of my father and the sight of him standing on the log booms he brought into our bay on the way to the sawmill - logs that would be made into lumber for the new home he built for us when I was 6.April 28, 2012:I finished this book yesterday, but part way through my reading, I had tweeted on Twitter that I was examining my fingertips for gold dust at every turn of the page. While a bit of an exaggeration, the truth is I wouldn't have been surprised to find some. This is a magical book. In fact this book, like all of my books, will become a BookCrossing book and will one day be left out in the wild for someone to find. If my plan works, the next person to read this book WILL find gold dust on their fingers (or maybe on their pants!) and wonder...I happen to have a little pot of 23 carat gold leaf I use to decorate my baking on special occasions. I intend to use a bit to dust the pages of this book. In all likelihood, I will never know who finds the book or whether they even noticed the gold dust but it tickles me to think I might add to the magic of this book for someone.---to be continued when I finish doing my taxes grrrr...---

  • Carol
    2019-01-11 08:51

    Bravo! Thank you, Mr. Zentner, for a book that was deceptively gentle, thoughtfully written, heartbreaking and so descriptive that several times I felt the need to put a sweater on because of your vivid prose. You melded reality and the supernatural beautifully together, creating a piece of work that I will read again not only for the story but also on the sheer enjoyment of reading how you put words together.

  • Sian Lile-Pastore
    2019-01-10 11:53

    I really love a snowy book, and there was snow in this book! Being buried under it, getting lost in it, snuggling in a cabin with it snowing outside.... Didn't realise this was historical, but it seems to cover gold rush up to about the 50s? (It's hard to tell) with lots of interlinking family stories. There is some magical realism mixed in which I didn't 100% get behind especially towards the end. But snow!!

  • Charlotte B.
    2019-01-05 16:01

    C'est le cœur un peu fissuré que je referme ce sublime roman d'Alexi Zentner. Au cours de cette lecture, j'ai eu l'impression d'être devant un feu de cheminée à écouter le narrateur raconter ses souvenirs et ceux de son père et de son grand-père. D'incroyables souvenirs qui mêlent la terrible dureté des hivers dans le Grand Nord et l'amour romantique et filial qui réchauffe les êtres lorsque la neige empêche toute activité. Certaines de ces histoires sont douloureuses et violentes, et certaines sont pleines de magie. J'aurais tant aimé en lire plus, ne pas quitter cette famille qui, génération après génération, fait preuve d'une résilience hors du commun face à la puissance de la nature. Une pépite à découvrir absolument.

  • Celeste - Una stanza tutta per me
    2019-01-10 14:48

    Non pensava ai boschi in termini di bene e male. Vedeva nella magia una realtà, non una forma di benevolenza o punizione, e capiva di dover contare solo su se stesso.La felicità di trovare un gioiello per caso sulle bancarelle dell'usato. Non avevo mai sentito parlare né di questo romanzo né di Zentner, scrittore canadese; però qualcosa nella trama - e nel prezzo - mi ha attirata. E si è compiuta la magia.Nella sua opera prima Alexi Zentner ci immerge nei gelidi inverni di Sawgamet, cittadina fondata sull'onda della caccia all'oro americana nei primi del '900 da Jeannot, un giovane avventuriero e primo esemplare delle tre generazioni familiari qui raccontate. E' infatti il ritorno dell'anziano Jeannot a Sawgamet dopo 30 anni a innescare nel nipote il desiderio di raccontare la storia della sua famiglia nelle figure di suo nonno e suo padre. La terra dell'estremo Nord è inclemente, i suoi inverni sono freddi e le sue estati sono brevi e dedicate alla raccolta della legna, poi venduta ai primi geli dell'autunno. I boschi che circondano la piccola cittadina sono abitati da creature più vecchie del tempo, delle quale si odono storie da sempre; che semplicemente esistono e devono essere affrontate dalla modernità.C'è qualcosa a Sawgamet che è più vecchio della storia; ci sono legami misteriosi e antichi che uniscono l'uomo al cuore più selvaggio della natura.La penna di Zentner è semplicemente magistrale nel dipingere di bianco innevato le pagine del romanzo; evoca atmosfere così reali che - giuro - mi ha fatto addirittura preoccupare che l'ululato del lupo desse noia ai vicini. E così le bufere sono fredde, il ghiaccio è implacabile e scava le nostre ossa come quelle dei protagonisti, le creature sono vere e così ben descritte da risultare credibili, esistenti. Dall'opposto lato, l'amore familiare, caldo e intimo, si staglia con imponenza contro il vento e ci culla per brevi momenti d'armonia.E' un romanzo bello, è proprio bello. E' imperdibile per gli amanti del realismo magico e della mitologia indiana, ma anche per chi è affascinato dalla natura selvaggia e indomabile, dal destino delle cose e della vita. Bello bello bello.

  • Doreen
    2019-01-06 12:47

    Stephen Boucher returns with his wife and three children to his remote northern B.C. hometown of Sawgamet to replace his stepfather as the Anglican minister. As he spends time with his mother in her last days, he reminisces about his childhood 30 years earlier, including the deaths of his father and sister. Another significant event is the return of Jeannot, Stephen's paternal grandfather. The return of this larger-than-life character leads to the telling of his life in Sawgamet, which he founded, until the death of his wife Martine.On the one hand the book is historical fiction, an ode to a mining/logging town and the hardships of its inhabitants, and a saga of the tragedies and triumphs of three generations of a family. It is a story about family stories and memories passed from one generation to the next, "memories [that] are another way to raise the dead." The stories are full of great love, endurance, and unimaginable loss.The novel is also a fantasy imbued with Inuit mythology. The wilderness is a character of mystery beyond modern rationality, often indifferent but sometimes generous and sometimes malicious. It is populated by a golden caribou, malevolent wood spirits, river demons, a spring with syrupy sweet water, and the ghost of a miner who was murdered and cannibalized.Some of the myths struck a chord, reminding me of stories told to me fifty years ago by my lumberjack grandfather, so I had no difficulty accepting the magic realism elements. The author also does not force the reader to believe: the narrator admits "it is not hard to ascribe some meaning to [elements of nature like snow]" but "perhaps the snow was just snow." What bothered me is some of the events in the novel. Could a town be buried under 50 feet of snow for over seven months? Could so many people survive?Despite the glowing reviews of many people, I found that this book just didn't "Touch" me. The characters all felt distant; I did not feel an emotional connection with any of them. Please check out my blog ( and follow me on Twitter (@DCYakabuski).

  • Kate
    2019-01-15 08:48

    With an interesting summary—and, okay, breathtaking cover that drew me in—I was eager to read Touch, but I’m sad to say I haven’t been able to finish it. It’s short (288 pages in paperback), and because of that, it needs to dive right into its plot, but it doesn’t—or maybe it’s more that it does, and the plot’s just not holding my attention. The first chapter drags (too much telling, not enough showing), some sentences are strangely structured, and the dialogue is stilted. Later in the book, there’s a lot of jumping around through time that is more annoying than intriguing. It’s the dialogue, though, that frustrated me from the start.Here’s an example from the first chapter with extraneous narrative stripped out:...I had asked my mother about my father’s [disfigured] hand.“I was thankful,” she said.“You were thankful?”“It was only his hand,” my mother said, and she was right.Like I said, it's stilted.And then there are lines like this:"And Mrs. Gasseur was happy to tell you about it,” my mother said. “She was happy as winter berries watching him dunk the boys.”Yes, “happy as winter berries.” I think Zentner has potential and will probably improve in time, but give him some time, maybe.

  • Patsy Gantt
    2018-12-28 11:47

    This one is different and I loved it. Very glad to have won an advance copy through GoodReads. This book is a story about lovers, families, friends, and loners. The main storyteller, Stephen, is a priest returning to his hometown as his mother is dying. As the main narrator of the story, we find out Stephen's life story and more. Other voices that fill in the blanks come into play and they tell the story of Stephen's father and grandfather, the town founder. We learn about logging and we are introduced to a harsh winter that buries the town under 30 feet of snow. I am not one to enjoy descriptions of fauna and flora, but this writer has grasped my attention in such a way that I easily envision an entire village and woodsland. There is a touch of fantasy as well as these woods also house gold-covered caribou, silently barking dogs, and Inuit mythical creatures. Yet the story of their lives is so authentic that it becomes easy to believe the fantasy is reality. This story is filled with human tragedies. However, this writer's style keeps the reader curious and hopeful. Through learning about Stephen's ancestor, we begin to understand Stephen's bizaare and uncommon childhood. The closing pages to not disappoint.

  • L
    2019-01-19 13:11

    This book is so beautiful! And cold, so very, very cold! Zentner takes us back to the beginning of what became the logging industry in Canada's north woods, using stories told of, and by, three generations of men in one family. The stories include ghosts and various other supernatural beings, in addition to families, friends, competitors, and one dog. There is a lot of loss and love in this tale, change and continuity. The woods are beautiful and dangerous. The most harrowing and gruesome chapter is "Thirty Feet of Snow." Wow. I can't imagine how people survived (not that all did, of course). This is a wonderful, wonderful book.

  • Emily
    2018-12-30 15:07

    This novel reminded me of One Hundred Years of Solitude in terms of the sort of mythos built and this beautiful feel of magical realism. Spanning decades, the narrator speaks of the present, his childhood, and the stories his grandfather told him of the early generation of Sawgamet, the north-woods boomtown which his grandfather founded. Filled with elements of the supernatural--mahahas, wendigo, qallupilluit, and others--the mixture that made this into a sort of north-woods magical realism was well-woven. Very enjoyable. This is not a Western-traditional tale with a rising action, climax, falling action, but rather a story that seems to deal with infinity circles.

  • Dimitris
    2019-01-17 16:58

    One of the most magical and atmospheric books I've ever read.

  • Pearse Anderson
    2018-12-27 13:05

    Zentner is a god. I have an award-winning book review about this book, so I should probably go ahead and just copy it into here. Okay. Just gotta say, this is still one of my favorite books.Though the year is still young, I believe that Touch by Alexi Zentner will be the best novel I read in 2015. Zentner, a local author, has built a temple to time, relationships, nature, and Americana in this close-to-perfect tale of magical realism. I met with Zentner to discuss writing and Touch.All of Touch takes place in Sawgamet, a boomtown in the northern woods of Rupert’s Land, the frontier above Quebec. When the novel takes place is another story. Touch’s narrator is Stephen Boucher, a pastor refusing to stay asleep on the night his mother will die. She’s sick and old, and as her temperature boils over Stephen begins to reminisce on all his ancestors who have lived in Sawgamet. Through this literary device, Touch takes place in any moment Stephen remembers or remembers being told in the last seventy years, from the 1870s to the 1940s. The Boucher name is traced back from Stephen to his father Pierre, and then to his grandfather, Jeannot. Zentner refuses to view time as linear as he mixes the past with the present, along with inklings of the future in every chapter. It’s more a solvable mystery for the reader rather than a confusing Pollockian mess. Each page I turned revealed new motivations, atmospheric details, and Chekov guns that go off in the next seventy years of the story.Another brilliant way Zentner plays with time is through the relationships in Touch. Death does not mean a characters is lost or that they stop growing and developing, it simply means they may not appear in person down the timeline. Mothers, uncles, and friends still are present as stories, memories, and spirits throughout any part of the novel. I never felt like death is an end, because as long as Stephen continues to talk about the town, the people live on forever. “When you think about people who are important to us, they’re still important to us even if they aren’t in front of us. So whether or not they are in the room, or whether or not they are alive, they can still be premier in our lives, and that’s one of the questions of the book,” Zentner told me when we sat down to talk. This concept is pulled off seamlessly, and gives the novel another layer of depth and beauty.On the note of relationships, Touch has one of great uniqueness and importance. Along with the main characters (mostly the Boucher family) there is another key character who has its own relationship with everyone else—winter. Winter is omnipresent in every paragraph of Touch. No matter the circumstances or characters, winter will rear its epic head. All characters eventually have an intimate relationship with winter, knowing the way snow sticks to their skin and hoarfrost to their beards and sharp coldness to their bones. Winter shapes the gold-mining town of Sawgamet into something dangerous and foreboding. Every time the meltwaters flowed in Touch I knew the next terrifying winter would only be a few steps away, and with it, life-changing decisions by the novel’s characters. “People who are in trouble show themselves more clearly than people not in trouble,” Zentner said. “It’s really easy to be a wonderful guy when nothing is going wrong.”Nature, not just winter, is ubiquitous in Sawgamet. Magic blends with the reality as Native American demons, such as the wehtikos and qallupilluit, roam the edge of the same forest men erect lumber mills and gold mines. “When you’re out in the woods and it’s dark, and you’re walking and you hear a branch break behind you, there’s a moment where you’re unsure if you believe in monsters. I think I was acknowledging the space on this country” Zenter explained to me, detailing how large North America is and how much, whether mythical or actual, can exist in the world. This reasoning was a driving force in including such creatures. Townsfolk accept such beings like they inhabit the same world as us. Zenter argued that people today do the same thing as the townsfolk do in Touch: accept the unexplainable. Airplanes, phones, self-driving cars, he said, are all forms of magic we choose to live with and not question. The shape-shifters and blood-drinkers of Inuit legend are, to Zentner, the magic that people lived with before magic was overtaken by technology, though the two are now indistinguishable.Touch is brilliant in its portrayal of an Americana-rich atmosphere. Touch is very much a book about masculinity and fatherhood, and the atmosphere shows that. “The themes I keep coming back to are the themes I am interested in in my own life. I tend to write about family, and obligation, and duty, and the way those come in conflict with desire and wants.” Friends bruise themselves sliding down the amateur waterslide. Men ride on islands of floating timber downstream. Trailsmen pass each other in the woods and silently nod. These small details build a perfect small-town environment, one where the American Dream is still within reach and everything seems endless. Zentner pairs this environment with American folklore and myth in a perfect duo. Golden deer, songbird swarms, and singing dogs bring another element of beauty and magic to Sawgamet. Touch is a masterfully crafted novel I would recommend to whoever wants a good story about life, magic, and family that will leave you breathless, satisfied, and wanting more.

  • Naomi
    2019-01-09 17:14


  • Kelly
    2019-01-10 17:08

    [image error][image error][image error]I should start a judging by the cover book list, 'cause as far as I can tell, I am beginning to be pretty good at it. Touch was such a beautiful treat, I didn't want to part with my library copy when the time came (go request another haunting piece of literary fiction, will ya?). This little tome was everything I had hoped for all these six months (yes, I am that much of an oddity), and I hesitate not to give Zentner a chaste kiss of thankfulness ("prudery" is not dead ladies and gents, in my case at least) and four stars on his first novel. Yes, I have a hard time believing I read it right, but Touch is his very first.For a novel that is placed in a fictional wilderness, and infused with magical realism, Touch recieved major skepticism from me when I was bumbling about on W.W. Norton's backlists and soon-to-be released (you have to check it: they have got some delicious stuff).I have had a six year love affair with the publishing house, and I can't recollect when they first let me down, quality wise. Some of my fiends argue that the publisher has nothing whatsoever to do with the quality of the material or the author's 'braininess.' Au contrair monamie. Where do I find all the crappiest crap crap? Ah, yes. It does start with the letter 'A'. Seeing Avon glaring at me from Border's bookshelves, or worse, my friend's bookshelves, makes me want to rush to Savemart, wolf down all the taxed-on doughnuts, and smooch the cute, yet suggestive, bagger (special thought: if you have not noticed, the yellow boxes of pastries, if you can call them that, are taxed because they are not food. Details, details, details.). Gah! Some editors just make me want to hang myself with my eyelet stockings! If ever it does get to that point, I have turned my beloved bookshelf to face my door, as I don't particularly wish Tolstoy, Austen, and Melville to watch. But so far, it has not gotten that bad. But it might be getting there. I recently uncovered two websites (I will refrain from dripping too much venom, as I don't wish to cause offence) where anyone, and I do mean anyone, can just sign up for an account, and quick as a wink, publish their...erm..novel online. Click. Huzzah, you're now a successfully published author. So it's true, anyone can write. But for us readers, it takes a certain someone to write.Like Alexi Zentner, obsequious water-witches and all.

  • Kimbo
    2019-01-09 14:53

    I am truly sorry to give Alexi Zentner's novel a bad grade because the short story (his debut) that led to the above novel is the most emotive short story I've ever read. It is buried within one of the O'Henry Prize anthologies and it may be under a different title, but it was succinct, haunting, and beautiful and I highly recommend you go read it if the premise/setting of this novel was what attracted you to it. This novel essentially picks up where the short story left off, to its detriment. The beauty and chill of the events in the short story are pushed to a backdrop, and we launch into a farce of ineffective fantasy (magical realism). There are some interesting concepts (spoilers): the ghost of a cannibalized man, a dog that causes a lucky streak for its owner, but it all falls short, especially some weird allegory about electricity illuminating and conjuring a ghost (some metaphor for technology coming to this previously rugged and seasonal town?). But the short story was a masterpiece. No fancy tricks, just human beings surviving in conditions sometimes bleak and sometimes joyful; but for the one tragedy in the narrator's family that persists, frozen (literally).

  • Sheena
    2019-01-12 12:53

    I was lucky enough to recive one of a few advance reader copies of the book Touch By Alexi Zentner.The book is about Stephen, an Anglican Priest, basically narrarating three generations of his family; himself, father and grandfather living in the boomtown Sawgament that Stephen's grandfather Jeanott discovered when he was 16. The book tells of the stories his father and grandfather told him when he was young, but through the narration he adds his own wonder. The stories off family life and tragady through-out Northern BC in the early 1900, the harsh winters working in the "cuts" and experiencing the Magic and supernatural beings of Inuit Legend that hunt and haunt the living in the woods. The story of true love and true loss. I found this book to be beautiful in every way, it made me laugh and cry outloud. It grabbed my imagination and kept it wondering every page I turned until I read the last word.I think this author is going to go far if his books continue to be a well written as this one is.

  • Tracy
    2018-12-28 08:49

    I was very excited to read this as I won the ARC here on first win!I will start off saying that this is not something I would normally be drawn to. However, I really did enjoy it. This is a true storytellers story. I found the whole reality of what these people lived through fascinating. I think we all take for granted the many aspects of modern day life. I am not so sure I could handle everything this family lived through. I found Alexi Zentner's writing to be beautiful and heartbreaking. My only complaint really and the reason for my 3.5 star rating? I found the bouncing back and forth between the generations to be a little distracting at times. There were many times I had to really stop and think about who Stephen, the narrator, was talking about. I do recommend you give this one a read though. It is a truly beautiful, fascinating, heartbreaking tale.

  • Heather(Gibby)
    2019-01-11 12:57

    Wow, this book has a little bit of everything. It is a mutigenerational epic story. It is a tale of survival, love, perseverance, and a little bit of magic sprinkled on top. the book takes place in a fictional town in British Columbia that is formed when Jeannot comes out west to look for gold. Slowly as others come in search of instant riches, the town of Sawgamet is born. Along with the hardships of surviving the challenging conditions, is the mythical creatues who live in the woods. The story is told form the point of view of Jeannot's grandson who has returned to Sawgamet to sit at his mother's death bed and he recalls his own lifetime spent in Sawgamet, as well as recalling the stories his grandfather had relayed to him. The story has a magical feel to it, interlaced through the three generations who struggle to overcome life's ups and downs.

  • Canadian Reader
    2019-01-09 10:54

    A piece of Canadian magic realism, incorporating Inuit mythology (with echoes of James Joyce's story "The Dead") into an otherwise realistic story about the settling of a gold mining/lumbering town in the Boreal Forest. Frankly, I found the use of the Inuit myths rather odd, given the town's location in the forest, south of the Arctic. The writing is assured, though action is reported rather than shown unfolding. In many ways, this piece resembles Thea Obreht's Tiger's Wife. (Indeed, Ms. Obreht is one of the blurbers on the back of the book). An okay read, but not one I found highly engaging. The characters all seemed rather distant and I'm not sure the Aboriginal slant really worked. I recommend that you borrow rather than buy.

  • Chelsey Langland
    2019-01-01 16:04

    It's hard to describe this book. It centers on Canadian town that was created in the gold rush and then became a logging town. The narrator is an Anglican priest who has come home to help his mother die. But the story is truly a sprawling jump around his family - his father and sister and grandparents. The story jumps around to all different times, and while I often can't follow that, I had no trouble here. There are witches and spirits in the forest and tall tales. One of the book jacket blurbs mentioned a "modern day Grimm's fairy tale", and parts of that might be accurate. It is just absolutely delightful.

  • Terri
    2018-12-31 12:04

    This is a debut novel that is just beautifully written. It makes a wonderful winter read (lots of snow and coldness and memories). It is a story about family stories, and the way in which the author weaves magical elements - golden caribou, malevolent wood spirits - throughout the "real" is seamless. Also captures the rugged wilderness of northern British Columbia. A gorgeous read and one I will probably read again.For a lengthier more emotive "review," see my post at