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Every Lost Country

“From the opening pages, you won’t be able to put down Steven Heighton’s Every Lost Country. A dizzying read, it’s one of those rare finds where gorgeously drawn characters and a galloping story merge effortlessly. Heighton proves himself once again a young lion of Canadian literature.”
-Joseph Boyden, author of Through Black Spruce, Three Day Road, and The Orenda

“A glorious novel . . . Suspenseful, superbly paced, stark and cinematically glamorous. . . recalls a Hitchcock thriller, but with better scenery—a landscape so spectacular, so sublime, it steals your breath and hurts your heart. Heighton is also a poet and his precise detail pinpoints effects, while rippling with meaning . . . Stunning.”
Toronto Star


Heighton_Every Lost CountryA literary adventure of the highest order from one of Canada’s finest writers: Every Lost Country combines the climbing suspense and intrigue of John Krakauer’s Into Thin Air with the literary quality of Elizabeth Hay.

Every Lost Country is inspired by an incident that happened in 2006 on the border between Nepal and Chinese-occupied Tibet. A group of mountain climbers saw Chinese border guards pursuing and killing Tibetans fleeing into Nepal. The climbers allegedly debated whether to report the attack or continue with their expedition. Steven Heighton uses this incident as a starting point for a novel of suspense about loyalty, human failings, and what love requires. Sophie Book, the daughter of the expedition’s doctor, is sitting on the border watching the sunset over Tibet when she spots a group of Tibetan refugees being pursued by Chinese borderguards and fleeing toward her up the mountain. When the shooting starts, her father, unable to stay away when somebody needs help, rushes towards the ensuing melee, ignoring the objections of Lawson, the expedition leader, who doesn’t want to get involved and spoil his chance to be the first climber to summit Kyatruk. Lawson is further enraged when Amaris, a Chinese-Canadian filmmaker recording the expedition, joins Book with her camcorder in hand. When the surviving Tibetan refugees are captured just short of the border, Lawson and Sophie look on helplessly as Book and Amaris are taken away with them. From that point, the novel follows Lawson up the mountain, Sophie in pursuit of her father, and the fugitives as they try to escape their captors.

“Every Lost Country is thrillingly plotted, elegantly detailed, and alive with characters who will seem as real to you as people you’ve known for years and can still talk to for hours on the phone. Heighton sets them down in what is literally the world’s most breathtaking landscape, at the very limits of human physiology, where the compass of moral courage points them into uncharted territory. Read this novel to be transported and enthralled.”
-Jamie Zeppa, author of Beyond the Sky and the Earth

“Transforms an obscure outbreak of geopolitical ugliness into a universal moral drama – like a Lord Jim for the 21st century, but told with the pace of [a] . . . modern thriller. . . . There is no romance in Heighton’s Tibet, no pure heroes or villains among the broad range of vividly drawn characters that inhabit it, and no easy answers to the questions raised by their often blundering, sometimes violent actions. . . .What sets the novel far above the thriller norm is the diversity of the viewpoints it incorporates, blended invisibly into the heart-pounding narrative by means of constant small miracles of characterization.”
Globe and Mail (John Barber)

“Shockingly real . . . Heighton creates a poetry of people in violent motion . . . Like Joseph Conrad (whom he increasingly resembles in important aspects), Steven Heighton takes the bare bones of an event occurring on the borderlines of most of our geographical, political and moral experiences, and refashions it into a novel that offers readers more than [just] big ideas and beautiful language . . . Yes, his ideas are once again big . . . and his language continues to grow in beauty. But there’s a quantum leap in [the] intensity of the storytelling . . . Every page, minor character and plot twist matters. Every Lost Country not only rivets readers to their seats, it challenges them to rethink the David-and-Goliath inequalities of this new millennium . . . [The novel] is more un-put-downable than many escape tales because the action and reactions of the pursued and the pursuers never break faith with reality. . . . How many other novelists in this country . . . choose words so carefully or narrative strategies with such intelligence?”
Globe and Mail (T.F. Rigelhof)

“The action, and there’s plenty of it, straddles the high-altitude border between Nepal and China. The main plot involves Canadians who get mixed up with Tibetan refugees fleeing Chinese soldiers; a major sub-plot follows a climber trying to conquer a remote Himalayan mountain. On both of these fronts, Heighton builds suspense, and paints unforgiving landscapes, with the same deftness he showed in his celebrated Arctic novel, Afterlands.”

“Deliriously good . . . The plot is suspenseful, in itself enticing enough to make Every Lost Country a good read . . . but the quality of the language elevates the novel to beautifully complex literature. Heighton is a superb writer.”
-Edmonton Journal

“Suspenseful, enlightening, and completely captivating. . . Readers may become breathless with the suspense as the story unfolds. But it would be easy to imagine we are having trouble breathing like Lawson’s expedition atop Mt. Kyatruk, since Heighton’s imagery creates this high altitude landscape with such extraordinary vividness and veracity.”
Chronicle Herald

“The writing moves skillfully through a range of registers, from tragic to (darkly) comic, intimate to political. And the magnificent setting is dramatically evoked on a lush canvas. . . [Every Lost Country] has an expansive moral vision wedded to a thrilling plot.”
Quill & Quire

“A truly exceptional novel . . . Every Lost Country will be cherished for its characters, who are numerous, challenging, and deeply alive; for its precise and beautiful language; and for its ambitious (and successful) effort to grapple with issues that are central to the way we live in a world of ever-increasing moral ambiguity.”
The Walrus Blog

“Heighton’s novel evokes a planet of disembodied voices . . . [He intensifies] the suspenseful action of the narrative by switching back and forth between . . . escape from Tibet . . . and Lawson’s attempt to climb Mt Kyatruk. The bone-chilling lunar landscape [is] powerfully evoked.”
National Post

“Nuanced—and gripping . . . There are no unqualified villains here—just differing degrees of desperation . . . Heighton does well to keep the reader ever conscious of . . . the stinging cold and the painfully thin air . . .[but] the novel’s strong suit is its characters and their actions are true to the dictates of their emotions . . . He keeps you interested in how much they will lose in the end.”
Montreal Gazette

“Evocative [and] suspenseful . . . the prose is metaphor rich, but the metaphors are generally good, and that poetic aptness keeps the narrative from capsizing under the weight of its moral debates.”
Ottawa Citizen

“A gorgeous book in so many ways—well-written, packed with interesting history, and great views . . . Heighton writes forcefully and beautifully. He maps out the tensions inherent in the situation, and between the characters, with impressive precision . . . A compelling, rewarding read.”
Montreal Mirror

“A story of resilience, adventure, and the human spirit.”

“In addition to the larger political story of Tibetan displacement, this fast-paced novel introduces us to the expedition doctor and his troubled daughter, both caught between idealism and belonging; a not-quite-famous climber and his documentarist in competing megalomania; and a people in search of a home. It is vintage Heighton: poetic, precise, authoritative.”
Maisonneuve Magazine

“Beautifully crafted . . . deeply moving . . . a richly imagined, multifaceted novel about personal dreams and failures, courage, endurance and love.”
-The OSCAR (Ottawa)

“The images of places and people are so clearly presented that they stay in one’s mind as if they had been viewed on a movie screen.”
-The Epoch Times


Knopf Canada, May 2010

Ambo/Anthos, Holland

Film option: Rhombus Media


National Bestseller

An Best Book of the Year

Shortlisted for the Banff Mountain Book Award

Globe 100 Best Book of the Year 2010

A Maisonneuve Magazine Best Book of the Year 2010

Other Books by Steven Heighton