The Last Crossing
Charles and Addington Gaunt must find their brother Simon, who has gone missing in the wilds of the American West. Charles, a disillusioned artist, and Addington, a disgraced military captain, enlist the services of a guide to lead them on their journey across a difficult and unknown landscape. This is the enigmatic Jerry Potts, half Blackfoot, half Scottish, who suffers his own painful past. The party grows to include Caleb Ayto, a sycophantic American journalist, and Lucy Stoveall, a wise and beautiful woman who travels in the hope of avenging her sister’s vicious murder. Later, the group is joined by Custis Straw, a Civil War veteran searching for salvation, and Custis’s friend and protector Aloysius Dooley, a saloon-keeper. This unlikely posse becomes entangled in an unfolding drama that forces each person to come to terms with his own demons.
The Last Crossing contains many haunting scenes – among them, a bear hunt at dawn, the meeting of a Métis caravan, the discovery of an Indian village decimated by smallpox, a sharpshooter’s devastating annihilation of his prey, a young boy’s last memory of his mother. Vanderhaeghe links the hallowed colleges of Oxford and the pleasure houses of London to the treacherous Montana plains; and the rough trading posts of the Canadian wilderness to the heart of Indian folklore. At the novel’s centre is an unusual and moving love story.
The Last Crossing is Guy Vanderhaeghe’s most powerful novel to date. It is a novel of harshness and redemption, an epic masterpiece, rich with unforgettable characters and vividly described events, that solidifies his place as one of Canada’s premier storytellers.
1. The Last Crossing is set in the late nineteenth century, mostly in the American and Canadian west, with some scenes in England. We learn that the story unfolds in, and around, 1871 [p 11]. Yet some sections of the novel occur before this date, as with the section, narrated by Custis, about his experiences...
–Annie Proulx, Globe and Mail
“The Last Crossing is both a Canadian classic and a rousing adventure.…A tremendous achievement of imagination, capturing the West in all its grandeur. With its intricate layering of stories, constant surprises, unforgettable scenes and characters and dramatic landscape, Vanderhaeghe’s saga is certain to resonate with readers long after they’ve finished the book.”
“A tour de force. Wonderfully written, suspenseful and totally absorbing, this novel must be [Vanderhaeghe’s] most powerful to date. . . . Many voices take up Vanderhaeghe’s twisting tale and its criss-cross pattern is skillfully woven into a chronicle of singular style and impressive power. This book is a remarkable achievement, a page-turner not only of epic proportions but of exceptional literary merit.…A book impossible to set aside.”
–London Free Press
“The Last Crossing is truly Vanderhaeghe’s masterpiece.…The variety of voices, settings and action evokes an almost inebriated response from the reader whose imagination is sparked to overflowing by such abundance.…Vanderhaeghe’s ability to hold in his imagination all of these characters and all of this vast narrative with its complexity of tensions and intensity of meaning, is testament to the creative genius of this writer and his passionate commitment to his craft.”
–Books in Canada
“The Last Crossing is an enormously rich and complex work, spanning time and place. It is an amazingly good story, and it both creates and satisfies a profound emotional need in readers. Thank you, Guy Vanderhaeghe.”
“The Last Crossing is Vanderhaeghe’s masterpiece.…The novel is so consistently vivid, the storytelling so magnificent.…What Vanderhaeghe is responding to, what he is writing about – albeit in a story that takes place more than a hundred years ago – is very much our present.…The Last Crossing is also a terrific entertainment. . . . In Vanderhaeghe’s book something approaching perfection is achieved. Scene follows scene described with such dexterity and skill that I was left, time and again, astonished.…Here is a story that you can hear, see, smell, as you read it. The Last Crossing is a novel with a broad canvas, but of intimately handled physical detail. The suspense is unflagging, its several voices distinct. Not once does Vanderhaeghe put a foot wrong.”
–Noah Richer, National Post
“[A] brilliant new novel.…The Last Crossing is one of those rarities: a page-turner that also bears the graceful prose and layered meanings of great literature.”
“The best Canadian book I’ve read this year is Guy Vanderhaeghe’s The Last Crossing.…Vanderhaeghe’s is an epic novel, but without the sometimes baggy sprawl the use of that word can connote; he maintains almost pitch-perfect control over five distinct narrative voices. If ‘excellence’ means anything, this novel is excellent.”
–Martin Levin, Globe and Mail
“The most astounding, unforgettable, literary journey ever penned in Canada about the 19th-century prairie.…The Last Crossing is a tale of lust, murder, revenge, shock and survival. But this is no pulp fiction. It is an arresting work of art more in the vein of Leo Tolstoy or Charles Dickens.…Each character is crafted with the care and precision of a Michelangelo sculpture. The plot grabs you in such a fierce, determined way that it is impossible, once started, to set the book aside.…In the end, The Last Crossing is nothing less than the first great novel about Canada’s Old West.”
“The Last Crossing is an absolutely wonderful book, the kind of literature that reminds other writers of why they want to create, and convinces readers the world is a vast and mythic enterprise, larger than our individual crises or triumphs.…[Vanderhaeghe crosses] histories, borders and story lines with remarkable virtuosity.…It is a joy to read, to go through this wild world with a writer who has fully stretched out over a landscape big enough to accommodate his stride.”
“When he arms his characters with speech – internal or external, uttered or unuttered – the reader feels the pulse of life.…The strongest and strangest and most compelling of Vanderhaeghe’s novels.”
“There’s no putting the book down.…Masterful.”
“The Last Crosssing’s epic sweep, historical scope, unforgettable characters, thematic complexity, compelling narrative and mythic underpinnings make it a hugely satisfying read. It is a novel of staggering literary achievement and immense emotional power that brings Canadian history to life.”
“With a sharp eye, Vanderhaeghe creates scenes that are unforgettable.…The Last Crossing is his masterpiece.”
–Halifax Daily News
“Brilliant and engaging.…”
From the Hardcover edition.