T. L. Bodine
Ghost Orchid Press (April 25, 2023)
Reviewed by Nora B. Peevy
Mt. Everest is about as different a setting as one can get, compared to New Mexico where author T. L. Bodine lives. The treacherous mountain has taken multiple lives and is the landscape for her latest story, Neverest. I read this book in the safety of my kitchen with a mug of tea, wrapped up snug in my bathrobe, but I climbed Mt. Everest with Carrie, Tom, Maya the Sherpa, and the other characters because Ms. Bodine did an incredible amount of research. According to The Himalayan Database, three hundred and ten people died on Mt. Everest between 1824 and 2022. Climber News estimates there are two hundred unretrieved bodies on the mountain. This book confirms I will not brave the brutal conditions of Mt. Everest to reach the summit, and I’m not one bit sorry.
Neverest opens with the main character, Carrie mourning the death of her fearless mountain climbing husband, Sean. Mt. Everest is his final resting ground, but Carrie is determined to climb the mountain and locate her husband’s body, even though she has never climbed. She hires Tom, Sean’s best friend, who was on the climb with Sean when he died. Together, they head up the treacherous mountain with the Sherpa, Maya, one of the same Sherpas in Sean’s climbing party. Carrie is suspicious of Maya from the beginning, and her suspicions are confirmed when Maya returns Sean’s last journal, written on his trip up the mountain. She thought she’d been in possession of all her dead husband’s belongings. Why did Maya have Sean’s journal?
The journal poses more questions, and doesn’t answer many. As they climb further up Mt. Everest, we learn Carrie and Tom had an affair, and Maya saw Sean shortly before he died. In his journal, Sean talks about feeling a presence stalking him outside his tent, a sort of animal with a rank smell. The people of Nepal believe the Yeti protect the mountain and its goddess. Did a Yeti kill Sean? Could it be snow blindness or lack of oxygen near the summit, or another medical condition responsible for his death? As Carrie climbs closer to the summit, she realizes it is not as important to find Sean’s body, as it is to discover why Sean enjoyed mountain climbing, and feel closer to him, but as she nears the end of her journey, she has a supernatural encounter, one leaving the rest of her climbing party with many questions and no answers.
Bodine’s writing style is fast and her story gripping. The marital drama between the characters is relatable to anyone, which makes this story work because the reader can identify with the sense of guilt, unanswered questions, and the need for finality we often don’t get when our loved ones die in an unexpected tragedy. I read this book in one sitting, drawn in by the mystery and shocked by the ending. As I finished the last page, I was sad the story ended, because it was a pleasure to read. T.L. Bodine is a wonderful storyteller who writes relatable characters and gets inside the human psyche, wrapping it in mystery with a giant bow of drama and intrigue.