Nicholas Evans - The Smoke Jumper

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A tragic story of friendship, loss, and love...The Smoke Jumper

Jan 25, 2003
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:story line

Cons:long, drawn out

The Bottom Line: An okay story, but long and drawn out.

For a few months now, a co-worker and I have been trading our books back and forth when we find one that we think the other would like. She really enjoyed The Smoke Jumper and passed it along to me, but with a warning that it was long. At a glance, I could tell what she meant. This book was probably one of the thickest paperbacks that I have read. I warned her that it would probably be awhile before I returned it due to my crazy work schedule lately, but she didn’t mind.

I excitedly opened the book that same night and probably read only about three chapters before I promptly fell asleep. Mind you, it was late and I probably should have been in bed anyway instead of reading. But I think that a more interesting beginning would have kept me awake.

~The Story~
At the beginning, we have 15-year old Skye, in the bar drinking with celebrate her birthday. It’s too bad when her much hated stepfather comes in with another woman and spots the girl sitting at a table with her friends. Well, let’s just say that he is quite mad when he discovers his stepdaughter drinking. But I don’t think that it the reason that he flips’s probably because Skye has caught him pawing some younger looking woman who was not her mother. She runs out of the bar before he can catch her and meets a young man down the road near the railroad tracks, which only leads to more trouble when they steal a car together and then get stopped by a cop. Bad things happen at this point and Skye ends up being an accessory to a murder just by being present.

We are brought to another part of the story at this part. We skip to Boston to meet Edward Tully, a wanna-be musical writer who teaches piano lesson to over-privileged kids with expensive shoes. He heads out to his weekly music session at Ralff’s Bar and is quite incensed when a woman steals his parking space. He gets out to confront her and her guy friend. They laugh at him and walk away. So he does what any other rational grown-up man would do...he steals her windshield wipers, leaving the two to make it home in the downpour without any wipers. But surprise to Edward when the pair later come into the bar. They both come up to Edward at the end of the night to apologize to him about the earlier occurrence and compliment him on his singing abilities. Edward pulls the girls’ windshield wipers out of his bag and returns them, much to the girls’ surprise. Later, Ed walks out to his car and finds both of his windshield wipers back time! But he also finds a little not attached to his car, with a girl named Julia’s phone number on it. It’s a good thing that it has stopped raining!

Then we come to the “Smoke Jumpers” in Missoula, Montana and a jump that will land them in a small clearing where they will begin constructing their fire line. Their job was to get into the line of the raging fire and try to stop it. Definitely not a job that I would want to have!

This is the first jump of the season, and Connor Ford is unhappy that his friend Ed would not be there this year to kick things off with him. But he patiently waits on Ed and his new girlfriend, Julia, to arrive the next weekend. Upon their arrival, Connor and Julia seem to hit it off pretty well and they all spend the day together. But fun and frolicking can only last for so long. Ed and Connor was ready themselves’ and their gear for the coming season, and Julia must start her job with the “WAY Program” (Wilderness and Youth) in Helena. This program seems to have to do with young offenders sent out to Montana as a last chance before being sent off to jail.

This is where we come back to Skye, peeing in a bush off the trail, all the while cursing Julia (a member of the Senior Staff). Julia seems to spend the week with the offenders and heading back to Ed and Connor on the weekends. They do things together at this point; rock climbing, viewing rodeo competitions, and just overall getting to know each other better. It is when Ed falls asleep on the way home from Connor’s mothers’ rodeo competition when Julia and Connor have a long conversation about their lives’ and Connor begins to fall for his friends’ girlfriend. Uh oh!

The next few days bring a much-needed break for the “Smoke Jumpers” when Montana gets nothing but rain. I found it funny that the jumpers’ spirits were so low at this point. But I cannot help thinking how all the fire heat has warped their brains when they start praying for the rain to stop and the sun and heat to come forth. I know that your job depends on fire, but do not who actually wishes for mass destruction to occur?

The season goes on with sirens blaring and jumpsuits being sewn. It is one day during a jump when Connor lands wrong and injures his ankle that the bad part begins. Ed goes off to California without him to fight a fire, returning to discover that the closest mountain, Snake Mountain has caught afire by a single shaft of lightening striking in the wrong place. And this happens to be the same mountain that Julia and her co-counselors have taken their group of kids, which includes the deviant Skye, the teenager who takes off during the night without notifying her counselors. Julia and another counselor, Katie, head off to find Skye... not knowing that they are about to walk into the middle of a raging fire.

Meanwhile, Ed, Connor, and Chuck (another jumper) are sent down onto the mountain to help track down Skye. They all meet up, and then break up and form a line across the valley in search for the girl. Only they find so much more than what they bargained for.

* This is by no means anywhere near the whole of the story, but if I told you it all, it would be pointless to read the book. What I have written here is just the beginning. The lives’ of the three main characters, Ed, Connor, and Julia spiral out of control through the rest of the story. Read it to find out!

~My Thoughts~
I have to say that I enjoyed The Smoke Jumper, to a point. It was an interesting storyline, to say the least. At least it was not like any other thing that I have read before. The characters were charming and well thought out. They seemed to come alive within the pages of this story. The first part of the story, involving the Smoke Jumpers, was what really caught my interest and I wish Evans would have carried that storyline throughout the ending also. It would have made the book more interesting towards the last half.

Ed was a witty musician gone astray by his sense of jealousy when his girlfriend takes a liking to his best friend. But he cannot bring himself to let Julia go, even though he knows that she will be happier with Connor.

Julia, torn between her sense of duty to Ed and her love for Connor, must make a huge decision that could affect all of their lives, forever. She also seemed like a thoughtful and intelligent character. It’s too bad that she listened to her head and not her heart, when it came to most matters.

And Connor, the poor guy! You could just feel for him throughout the book. He was such a good guy character, but was always the one left at the end of line. But Ed and Connor seemed to compliment each other as best friends. One was the silly outgoing character, and the other was the more serious introverted character.

One thing that was obviously annoying to me at the beginning was the fact that Evans jumped around all over the place. We had three separate stories that were later woven into one, but you were left with a sense of loss as to what the point was at the beginning when everything was being introduced. Once the stories were woven together, you had a great triangle of love and devotion. But that later turned into denial and sneakiness that this story could have done without. After the sub-plots were finally interwoven, we were brought to the heart of the story and lives’ of the characters. It is only towards the last 1/3 of the book that we are rudely stripped of anything substantial and worthwhile.

Something else, was that The Smoke Jumper was quite on the long side with all of the added detail that the book could have done without. The Smoke Jumper should have ended long before it actually did. Things could have been tied together some other way so that the reader wasn’t left with reading so many little details towards the end that should not have been there in the first place.

But on the flip side, Evans makes you know and understand the characters. He writes in such a way that attaches you to them and you feel their pain and loss. There are many unexpected occurrences that have a tendency to pop up when you least expect them to here. The Smoke Jumper is a tale of love, denial, and tragedy.

Overall, I would have to recommend this story because it was so unique. If anything, read it to see how refreshing it is and how happy the ending actually turns out to be. Whether it’s the one that you want, now that is the question. But do not say that I didn’t warn you about the boring parts and the predictability!

~ Happy Reading!


ISBN: 0-440-23516-2
Format Read: Paperback
Pages: 560
Price: $7.99 US/$11.99 CAN

Recommend this product? Yes

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