From the author of Where the River Ends, comes this page-turning story of love and survival.
On a stormy winter night, two strangers wait for a flight at the Salt Lake City airport. Ashley Knox is an attractive, successful writer, who is flying East for her much anticipated wedding. Dr. Ben Payne has just wrapped up a medical conference and is also eager to get back East for a slate of surgeries he has scheduled for the following day. When the last outgoing flight is cancelled due to a broken de-icer and a forthcoming storm, Ben finds a charter plane that can take him around the storm and drop him in Denver to catch a connection. And when the pilot says the single engine prop plane can fit one more, if barely, Ben offers the seat to Ashley knowing that she needs to get back just as urgently. And then the unthinkable happens. The pilot has a heart attack mid-flight and the plane crashes into the High Uintas Wilderness-- one of the largest stretches of harsh and remote land in the United States.
Ben, who has broken ribs and Ashley, who suffers a terrible leg fracture, along with the pilot's dog, are faced with an incredibly harrowing battle to survive. Fortunately, Ben is a medical professional and avid climber (and in a lucky break, has his gear from a climb earlier in the week). With little hope for rescue, he must nurse Ashley back to health and figure out how they are going to get off the mountain, where the temperature hovers in the teens. Meanwhile, Ashley soon realizes that the very private Ben has some serious emotional wounds to heal as well. He explains to Ashley that he is separated from his beloved wife, but in a long standing tradition, he faithfully records messages for her on his voice recorder reflecting on their love affair. As Ashley eavesdrops on Ben's tender words to his estranged wife she comes to fear that when it comes to her own love story, she's just settling. And what's more: she begins to realize that the man she is really attracted to, the man she may love, is Ben.
As the days on the mountains become weeks, their survival become increasingly perilous. How will they make it out of the wilderness and if they do, how will this experience change them forever?
Both a tender and page-turning read, The Mountain Between Us will reaffirm your belief in the power of love to sustain us.
From the Hardcover edition.
Hey… I’m not sure what time it is. This thing should record that. I woke a few minutes ago. It’s still dark. I don’t know how long I was out. The snow is spilling in through the windshield. It’s frozen across my face. Hard to blink. Feels like dried paint on my cheeks. It just doesn’t taste like dried paint. I’m shivering…and it feels like somebody is sitting on my chest. Can’t catch my breath. Maybe broke two or three ribs. Might have a collapsed lung. The wind up here is steady, leaning against the tail of the fuselage…or what’s left of it. Something above me, maybe a branch, is slapping the plexi-glass. Sounds like fingernails on a chalkboard. And more cold air is coming in behind me. Where the tail used to be. I can smell gas. I guess both wings were still pretty full of fuel. I keep feeling like I want to throw up. A hand is wrapped around mine. The fingers are cold and calloused. There’s a wedding band, worn thin around the edges. That’s Grover. He was dead before we hit the treetops. I’ll never understand how he landed this thing without killing me, too. When we took off, the ground temperature was in the single digits. Not sure what it is now. Feels colder. Our elevation should be around eleven-five. Give or take. We couldn’t have fallen more than five hundred feet when Grover dipped the wing. The control panel sits dark, unlit. Dusted in white. Every few minutes the GPS on the dash will flicker, then go black again. There was a dog here somewhere. All teeth and muscle. Real short hair. About the size of a loaf of bread. Makes snotty, gurgling sounds when he breathes. Looks like he’s jacked up on speed. Wait… ‘Hey, boy…Wait…no. Not there. Okay, lick but don’t jump. What’s your name? You scared? Yeah…me, too.’ I can’t remember his name. I’m back…was I gone long? There’s a dog here. Buried between my coat and armpit. Did I already tell you about him? I can’t remember his name. He’s shivering and the wrinkles around his eyes are quivering. Whenever the wind howls, he jumps up and growls at it. The memory’s foggy. Grover and I were talking, he was flying, maybe banking right, the dash flashed a buffet of blue and green lights, a carpet of black stretched out below us, not a light bulb for sixty miles in any direction, and…there was a woman. Trying to get home to her fiancé and a rehearsal dinner. I’ll look. …I found her. Unconscious. Elevated pulse. Eyes are swollen shut. Pupils are dilated. Probably a concussion. Several lacerations across her face. A few will need stitches. Right shoulder is dislocated and left femur is broken. It didn’t break the skin but, her leg is angling out and suit leg is tight. I need to set it…once I catch my breath. …It’s getting colder. I guess the storm finally caught us. If I don’t get us wrapped in something…we’ll freeze to death before daylight. I’ll have to set that leg in the morning. Rachel…I don’t know how much time we have, don’t know if we’ll make it out, if…but…I take it all back. I was wrong. I was angry. I never should’ve said it. You were thinking about us. Not you. I can see that now. You’re right. Right all along. There’s always a chance. Always.
CHARLES MARTIN is the author of When Crickets Cry. He lives in Jacksonville, Florida, with his wife and their three sons.
About the Book
About This Guide...
A letter from the author:
Dear Reader, I’m a fifth-generation Florida boy. Born and raised. I’m used to heat and sunshine. Put me in the snow and I turn into a total wimp. About a year ago, I was sitting in a plane at thirty-five thousand feet flying to Oregon, looked down upon Utah’s snow-covered mountains—not a lightbulb in sight—and wondered, “What if …” By the time the plane landed, I’d scratched the following:
What if a plane crashed into that mess? What if it was a small plane carrying two total strangers? What if he was happily married, headed home to his wife? What if she was headed home to her rehearsal dinner and a white dress? What if they were hurt? And what if they could expect no rescue?
Months later, two friends and I traveled to the High Uintas Mountains—a wilderness spanning more than a million acres. If you ever saw Jeremiah Johnson, that’s where they filmed it. Average snowfall is 500 to 700 inches a year. Sometimes more. To me, it’s more Mars than Earth.
We rented snowmobiles and rode some sixty miles into the middle of that beautiful, magnificent, unforgiving landscape. The second night, at about two a.m., I lay staring up at a star-lit sky, thinking about my two characters. In the dark, my fingers cold, my breath blowing like smoke, the snow just beginning to fall, our fire reduced to glowing red embers, I scratched the last question:
What if things are not what they seem?
The Mountain Between Us is the story of an orthopedic surgeon from Jacksonville headed home after a medical conference. Waiting at the gate in the Salt Lake City aAirport, he meets a journalist from Atlanta making her way home to her six bride’s maids and a rehearsal dinner. Like everyone else in the airport, they are trying to outrun the storm that is inching ever closer. When the de-icer breaks, effectively killing their chances of beating the storm, they hire a charter to hop them to Denver. Standing in their way, rising some twelve thousand feet above sea level, are the High Uintas.
On the surface it’s a story of survival—of impossible circumstances—and the man and woman who face it. Beneath that, it’s a story of laughter, hope, brokenness, friendship, and a tender love risked by few and shared by even less. I hope you enjoy it.
My best to you, Charles
For more information about this and Charles Martin’s other novels, visit CharlesMartinBooks.com.
Share your thoughts on this book on Charles’s Facebook page: http://www.facebook.com/author.charles.martin
The following discussion topics and author interviewletter are designed to enhance your reading of Charles Martin’s The Mountain Between Us. We hope they will enrich your experience as you explore this captivating novel of extraordinary love.
Questions and Answers...
1. The Mountain Between Us is an adventure story, a story of survivial, but and above all a love story. By the end of the novel, what do we learn about the author’s views of love? Is there such a thing as a perfect marriage? What do Ben and Ashley learn from the pilot, Grover, about the nature of enduring love? Is that a lesson that stays with them throughout the book? In your experience, does marriage get better? What makes a great marriage?
2. After the crash, Ben and Ashley are stranded at 11,500 feet, fifty miles from any kind of civilization with no hope of rescue, she with a broken leg, he with three busted ribs and a possible collapsed lung, and minimal supplies … yet they survived for more than four weeks in these extreme conditions. What skills and character traits do you think helped ensure their survival? Did you find the story credible?
3. Was Ben to blame at any point for what happened? Should he have hired the charter plane to take them out in the coming storm? During their time on the mountain, what choices did Ben make? Do you believe he made the right choices? What would you have done in his place?
4. We learn about Ben’s wife mostly through the recordings she made on Ben’s dDictaphone. Is she a strong presence in the book? What kind of person was she? What made her so special to Ben?
5. Ben refers to himself as “a bit of an emotional blockhead” (page 119). Why do you think he finds it so difficult to come to terms with his “separation” from his wife, Rachel? What part did his childhood experiences play in his emotional development?
6. In the most difficult times on the mountain, when Ashley and Ben are losing hope of survival, how do they keep themselves going? What was the most difficult part of their ordeal? If you were in their position, what would you have done? Do you think you would have made it back home alive?
7. How does Ben and Ashley’s time in isolation on the mountain change their perspective on life? Does it make them see any more clearly? Are their lives irrevocably changed by the experience? In what ways?
8. Were you surprised by the revelation about Ben’s family life at the end of the book? How did the discovery make you feel? Looking back through the book, haddid the author layid any clues for the reader along the way?
9. 9)Ben uses his Dictaphone to communicate with his wife. What do you learn about Rachel from his recordings? Do you think this technique works as a narrative device? What does it wsay about the way we communicate with our loved ones today? Why did Ben throw the dDictaphone into the ocean at the end of the book?
10. What is the significance of the title? What is “the mountain between us”?
11. In the author’s note, Charles references one of the most beautiful Bible verses: I lift my eyes to the hills. From where does my help come … What part does religious faith play in this novel? Do you think the author’s own optimism is derived from his faith in God?