The Adventurer’s Son

Usually when I read wilderness adventure stories, I stick with the uplifting ones that inspire me to abandon typical responsibility and go live the dirt bag life.

The Adventurer’s Son by Roman Dial was not that kind of story.

Dial starts with his own childhood and how he ended up being an Alaskan adventurer and scientist, instilling the joys of the outdoors in his children. His son, Cody Roman Dial, grew to love wilderness expeditions in his own right. So it seemed natural that, after a particularly rough breakup, young Cody Roman would go on a sort of wilderness journey to find himself.

But when he fails to check in with his parents when he is supposed to, it launches an all out, multi-year search to try to find him and discover what happened, and how he just vanished in the jungles of Central America.

This book is the story of a parent’s worst nightmare, and a close look at how one father handled it. Dial wrestles with some tough questions, like whether different childhood activities would have changed how things played out.

This was the kind of book that’s easier to read if you already knew how it ended. I had to resist skipping forward, because though I wanted to know, I felt a weird sort of responsibility to let the story play out in its own time.

Dial writes in a clear, honest style. Perhaps because of some experiences he had during his search, Dial doesn’t dramatize in any way, or even use emphatic language. The story is plain, and that makes it powerful.

In case you’re like me and didn’t know anything about the missing person search in 2014, I won’t spoil the story for you. Just know, it’s an intense book. And it’ll either swear you off wilderness adventure forever, or make you pause and remember that you’ve accepted the risks.

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