by Susan Morgan
Missoula, MT
Self published, 2003
283 pages

From the flashflood on page one to a lightning storm at the end, the forces of nature in Susan Morgan’s Confluence parallel the forces of her narrator’s emotions. At the start of Confluence, Shari, the narrator, heads to Utah on a backpacking trip where she meets her soul mate, Jon, among the red rocks and Green River. Throughout the rest of the novel, Shari struggles with her strong feelings for Jon and her loyalty to her husband.

Morgan also interweaves the multiple issues of society’s gender bias, materialism, and preserving wild places into the story. Around the campfire, characters argue about the worth of wilderness and the appropriateness of motorized use in way that sometimes feels like the reader is being yelled at.

Morgan’s descriptions of the Utah backcountry, and later Glacier National Park, take the reader outside and leave a lasting impression of some of the most spectacular wild places left in this country. After reading this novel, the reader will want to hop in a car and head to the desert to lose themselves in the canyons and arches where Shari’s grappling — between what she wanted to do and what she should do — first began.

After counseling, and a lot of gardening, Shari mostly comes to terms with her feelings for the two men. Fortunately for Shari, nature jumps in and makes the final decision for her. And it turns out that she can have her cake and eat it to, or as she says, “have both of her cakes.”