On The Volcano
In the 1850s, to escape the increasing lawlessness of town, Jack MacDonald sells his house and moves with his wife into the wilderness, staking a claim on the forested crater of an ancient volcano. Here Katie is born; here her mother dies. As Katie grows, she and her father live quietly, hunting, trapping, and keeping their distance from the turbulent violence of the frontier settlements. The only other people Katie knows are Dan and Lorraine, occasional visitors and fellow refugees from “civilization.” Still, Katie longs to meet others. On her sixteenth birthday, her father takes her on one of his rare trips for supplies into Badwater. Here, as her father has so long feared, they attract unwelcome attention. Despite elaborate precautions, evil follows them home. They will have to fight to protect themselves and their friends, not only from outlaws, but also from Badwater’s new, tough sheriff.
This YA novel drifts quickly into a kind of fantasy survivalist narrative, only loosely connected to real places and events. The volcano, smoking ominously in the background, is transformed from a natural symbol into a collaborator. In this world, humankind is far more dangerous than nature. A romance for Katie, apparently brought in for the teen reader, feels out of place in this well-written but disquieting story.