John Zada decides to seek out the diverse inhabitants of the Pacific Northwest, where nearly everyone has a story to tell, from a scientist who dedicated his life to researching the Sasquatch, to members of the area’s First Nations, to a former grizzly bear hunter-turned-nature tour guide. With each tale, Zada discovers that his search for the Sasquatch is a quest for something infinitely more complex.
[Scenes are] crafted with vivid skill throughout the book, including many scattered throughout the book’s footnotes ... Despite the towering creature at its heart, the genius of In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond is most often its human pathos. Some of that pathos is served up in candy colors that aren’t strictly believable...but even so, it’s the plain old humans who provide some of the book’s most memorable moments ... it speaks to the odd, winning gravitas that runs through In the Valleys of the Noble Beyond. The shelf of serious, beautifully done Bigfoot books isn’t exactly a crowded one, but it now has an indisputable classic.
Zada is too good a writer to pen anything as trite as 'the journey is the destination,' but that is clearly the case here ... Books on supernatural phenomena typically steer one of two courses: tabloid gullibility or mean-spirited debunkery. Zada deftly tightropes between the two ... 'I hope you’re not here to make fun of us,' one local tells [Zada]. He is not, which makes this big-hearted book more satisfying than it might have otherwise been ... What saves the book from tabloid buffoonery is Zada’s skeptical eye and conversational style. The writing is fresh ... Less compelling are Zada’s countless trips to a lake or a river or a campsite. These fall into a tiresome pattern. Meet characters at local watering hole. Gently inquire about sasquatch sightings. Follow up leads. Reach dead end. Repeat ... at its best when Zada goes off on metaphysical riffs and epistemological explorations: Our eyes and our minds are imperfect instruments that process only a thin slice of reality ... This is not a book for everyone. Subscribers to the Skeptical Inquirer look elsewhere. Ditto die-hard rationalists. Those willing to suspend their disbelief — to just shy of the breaking point — will be rewarded with a quirky and oddly captivating tale.
I confess, this was nothing like I expected when I first picked it up. If you’re looking for something akin to Finding Bigfoot on TV, you’ll be disappointed. Sure, there are plenty of stories, both first- and secondhand accounts of encounters with sasquatch-like creatures, but this is less a hunt for Bigfoot than it is a meditation on what that search means for people ... The book also offers a wonderful new perspective on the creature, exploring it as both a part of a greater ecosystem and a part of a spiritual system that goes beyond simple biology and into the metaphysical. And that narrative, more than the hunt, is what makes this an engaging read. The people Zada encounters, the culture, the way that Bigfoot is woven in local legends and native mythology… that strikes far more of a chord with the reader than any of Zada’s wanderings looking for tracks, etc. ... This tome is less about 'when will we find him?' and more about 'Why do we search for Bigfoot in the first place?' And that journey proves to be exponentially more interesting.