The Revenant – Michael Punke

The Revenant – (noun) One who has returned, as if from the dead.

The Revenant is a book that I did not expect to like, but after about the first chapter, I was hooked. I, like many other people, saw the movie before realizing it was a book. I jumped up and down when I saw that Leo DiCaprio won his first Oscar. And I was excited when I was browsing in my local bookstore and found my recent favorite movie in book form on their shelves. I’m not normally the type to watch the movie before I read the book because I don’t like my imagination to be skewed by graphics and actors, but this time I couldn’t help it.

First things first, that bear attack. (This isn’t a spoiler, if you didn’t know about the bear attack, then you’ve been living under a rock). I remember turning to my husband after like 10 pages and saying, “Holy $h!t the bear attack already happened!” On second thought, let me back up…

Hugh Glass is the protagonist of the story (that’s Leo). After a short career on a boat, he sees an ad in the paper to work for a fur trapping company. He decides to pack up, join a group of men, and walk through the wilderness in search of beaver pelts. After getting attacked by the grizzly, the leader of the group delegates the job of a proper burial after Glass’ imminent death to two of the men. Fitzgerald (that’s Tom Hardy, for those familiar with the movie) and a kid named Bridger are the ones left behind. Fitzgerald had ONE freaking job, and that was to take care of Glass and make nearly half a year’s salary for doing it, but instead he decides to bail and steal everything Glass owns in the process.¬†Glass was slipping in and out of consciousness, but he was aware enough to know what had been done to him. This excited a need for revenge that kept him alive.

This is where the story gets weird. I had a feeling that I wouldn’t like it because it’s in the “Western” genre (which is a big no no for me) but Punke does such a fantastic job at telling the story. He’s a master at showing the reader instead of telling them what to feel. It’s the difference between: “His foot hurt really bad every time he took a step” and “His worn down moccasins left no barrier between his foot and a prickly cactus, and he winced with each step down on his festering toe”. See what I mean? This is honestly what kept my hooked toward the end once the bulk of the action was over. After that, the plot just became too convenient. I mean, Glass narrowly escaped death 6 or 7 times while the rest of the men around him died. It became trite.

One last thing…I’m not going to spoil it, but the ending is nothing like the movie. I’ll just say this: if you want some intense, revenge-fueled, fist-to-fist battle, Leo-draped-over-a-horse-playing-dead death match, then you’ll be just as disappointed as I was. I’d still recommend it, though.

 

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