The Call of the Canyon (1921)

14 Jun

“Canadian Observation Post”, Painted in 1919 by Colin Gill
Sir Andrew MacPhail, The Medical Services, 1925: “Shell-shock is a manifestation of childishness and femininity. Against such there is no remedy.”

Ladies’ Home Journal November 1921
Grosset and Dunlap 1924

Glenn Kilbourne had returned from France early that fall, shell-shocked and gassed, and otherwise incapacitated for service in the army—a wreck of his former sterling self and in many unaccountable ways a stranger to her.

ShellShockShell-shock or PTSD as we call it today was something that was not understood after WWI. War is horrific. Any war, at any time, in any place. No exceptions. Soldiers and civilians are affected by the trauma. Not only they but the people around them and the generations after them bear the cost of war. Glenn Kilbourne just happened to be one of these payers.

As with most of the later wars the US has participated in there did not seem to be enough funds to take care of those who had been damaged in service of their country. Glenn’s greatest fear is that in having to fight the long-term effects of his experiences he might not “get over it”.

I wish it were possible for me to make you understand. For a long time I seem to have been frozen within. You know when I came back from France I couldn’t talk. It’s almost as bad as that now. Yet all that I was then seems to have changed again. It is only fair to you to tell you that, as I feel now, I hate the city, I hate people, and particularly I hate that dancing, drinking, lounging set you chase with. I don’t want to come East until I am over that, you know… Suppose I never get over it?

West Fork of Oak Creek, and Schnebly Hill Sandstone from Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, AZ taken on September 21, 2010;  Credit: Michael D. McCumber

West Fork of Oak Creek, and Schnebly Hill Sandstone from Red Rock Secret Mountain Wilderness, AZ taken on September 21, 2010; Credit: Michael D. McCumber

And so Carley Burch goes west to Arizona in hopes that perhaps she might help her Glenn “get over it / get well”. Carley and Glenn will find their relationship sorely tested by their own prejudices and expectations and by the intervention of others. Again Zane Grey presents a love story with complications. These complications might be unlikely ones. But romance complications always seem strange to me.

What does happen is a healing of sorts for Glenn. The hard life he now experiences, a very different type of hardship from the one on the front, enables him to breathe psychologically. What Carley has to decide is whether she is able to share in a more back-to-nature type of life. Give up the comforts of her “modern” life to be with the man she thinks she might love. That is a pretty difficult decision to make. Would I do that for my husband? Would he do that for me? What price are we willing to pay for the person we want to spend our lives with? Carley is going to find that out for herself.

We get the traditional love-triangle and sacrifices. Something that I, as an adult, find challenging in reading the romances of Zane Grey is putting aside my own views on society and women. In fact this is one of my greatest challenges in reading modern romances as well. Fortunately, there are many other facets of Zane Grey’s writing that fascinate me.

There is nature, gorgeous nature. I have lived in the Rocky Mountains myself – years and years ago – and still miss them at times. There are cowboys – some of them pretty tricky guys. We also get humour in the form of the “new person in town” sort. There is some moralistic finger-pointing revealing the fears for the future that might have been prevalent in the West back then.


The Call of the Canyon available on Gutenberg








  • 1926: Kanjonin kutsu (Finnish)
  • 1970: Vesten kaller (Norwegian)
  • 1980: Der Ruf des Canyons (German)
  • 2009: Audio reading



Canadian Observation Post

1 Comment

Posted by on 2014-06-14 in Books


Tags: , , , , , , ,

One response to “The Call of the Canyon (1921)


Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: