Mr. Zentner in his debut shows strong promise in handling the geography of the primeval forest and of the larger-than-life characters that populate this story. The fairy tale aspect is never far from the surface narrative, and pops up at unexpected times. The stories are told by the characters, whose presence we barely notice. It could be Grandpa Jeannot telling the story to Stephen, or Stephen telling the stories in turn to his daughters. All these features of the story tell of Mr. Zentner’s skill and ambition in his first novel. Both are considerable.
An atmospheric story with extreme conditions of snow, river, forest, and fire, and extreme conditions of human survival, which bring out the best and worst in the human beings and the non-human beings, “Touch” presses deeply into our memories and consciousnesses. The style is perfect for the subject matter, and suspending our disbelief rewards us generously here. Take it up if you’re ready for a good, well-told fantasy.