Guy Sutton can’t think of one decent reason he should be in the hellish cold of the Canadian North. At least until he meets the enigmatic writer Cameron Campbell. Sent by his boss to prove the authorship of Cameron’s recent submission, Guy finds himself out of his element and trying to make sense of the distant man who is the son of a literary giant. Cameron writes because it’s part of who he is and so is the wildlife research he’s doing in Canada. In Guy he has desperately needed assistant, as long as he can avoid the man’s prying questions. Guy sees too much of what Cam has spent a lifetime trying to hide.
As days pass, Guy comes to the frightening realization that Cameron has essentially shut himself down from the rest of the world. It’s taking its toll on the man and whether he understands it or not, Cameron desperately needs someone to see through to the truth of him. And luckily Guy is there to help.
Get Up is a bit of roller coaster. There’s a lot of good on the page, but narrative and writing choices left me feeling more than a little annoyed, and at one point, angry. Let’s take a look at the good stuff first. The author does a great job of setting the scene for us: the winters and early springs of northern Canada can be brutal, especially when in an isolated area. And there are not a lot of places more isolated than Nunavut. We’re drawn into the close quartered life of a small shack, surrounded by nature and very little else. The pacing is relatively strong, especially during the last half of the book. Cameron is a far better drawn character than Guy, who always feels a bit out of reach, but not stagnant or flat. It’s obvious from the beginning that Cameron isn’t quite right — there’s an emotional disconnect between him and the wider world. And while most of us go through periods like this from time to time, Cameron’s have evolved into something more dangerous and potentially hurtful. It takes Guy time to peel back the layers and when he finally gets to the reason for Cam’s isolation, it’s both a relief and a cause for sadness. It offers readers an odd sense of catharsis because we finally understand some of Cameron’s odder behaviors.
The plot to Get Up is, on its simplistic level, somewhat implausible, but still engaging and comprehensive. Unfortunately some of the revelations made by characters towards the end of book both complicate and detract from the overall narrative. They are cluttered and unnecessary for an already decent plot. The end of the book is somewhat forced — the antagonist isn’t really introduced until one of the last chapters and they don’t feel very believable.
So here’s the big issue: there is a scene that is simply horrific. It reads as something done for shock value. I’m not easily shaken, but this scene was too much even for me. I don’t mind violence or brutality when it has a purpose, but when it’s seems created just for the wow factor, it’s not my cup of tea. The overall story gained nothing from this scene and it honestly left me so upset that I barely finished the book. Consider this particular chapter red flagged for anyone with triggers for child abuse, animal torture, mutilation, or pretty much every horrible thing ever. (It’s in Chapter [spoiler]18[/spoiler] if you want to know)
All in all, Get Up was a good novel that stumbles under its own weight more than once. The characters and place setting are well established, as is the overall story. But there are plot distractions that never add much to the book and in one scene completely derail it. If you can manage the darker aspects of Get Up and enjoy your protagonists plenty wounded, then this one might be for you.