Book Review: Togwotee Passage

For deep thinkers, lovers of the great outdoors and readers who value a character-driven story, this is an ideal read.


The world is facing many reckonings at the moment, but the one that unites all countries, cultures and continents across the world, is the real threat of climate change and human extinction. And this threat is something we have manufactured ourselves, through the repetitive cycle of human greed, overconsumption and the incessant materialist culture that is perpetuated by the capitalist framework.

Togwotee Passage has a very unique feeling and sense of unease carried with it, but always reminds the reader of the beauty of nature and how it’s relationship to us, as human beings, is more than essential. 

It tackles some of the greatest issues of our times, through the exploration of climate change, inequality, and materialism. It is a stark critique of the Western world and our mindset, told through the life and perspective of Calan, living in Wyoming in the 1940s, but feels very close to the present day.

Please note, a copy of this book was kindly gifted to me by the author, in exchange for an honest review.


About the Book

Literary Eco-Fiction, published in 2019. 

Calan flees his family life early on due to the upsets caused by growing up within a dysfunctional family, his father was a drunk and Calan was regularly exposed to his mistreatment of his mother. Due to this, he finds great solace in the outdoors and befriends Derek, a boy who lives on the Shoshone land.

Their friendship blossoms through a shared appreciation of the outdoors and their conversations reveal a deep and philosophical battle centred on the human relationship with nature and our problematic image as the dominant species. Together, they engage in important conversations centred on these issues, which causes readers to think about the world around us.

This book is character-driven, but the plot follows the course of Calan’s life over the years and his reckonings with the world as influenced by many conversations he had with his best friend. 

All of this is intertwined with beautiful descriptions of the natural world and Native American mythology. Through Calan’s relationship and time spent with Derek, the Shoshone Indian culture is revealed and paralleled with his traditional American upbringing. The reader learns about this Native American tribe, which is made up of around 8,000 people living in the Eastern Shoshone in Wyoming, and the many opposites and pitfalls of consumerist, American culture that they oppose.

It’s a book about nature, human selfishness, destruction and relationships all rolled into one. It causes the reader to think, re-assess and re-evaluate the power of the natural world.


About the Author

L. G Cullens is an author born and raised in western Wyoming, the United States. After beginning a career in civil engineering and computer sciences, in his fifties, he decided to pursue woodworking and has since taken up writing.

Cullens is passionate about the natural world and aims to spread awareness of it, which shines through in his book, Togwotee Passage.

To find more information about the author, or contact L.G Cullens, you can visit his website.


My Review

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As soon as I started reading this book I knew two things from the offset. I knew I would like it, and I knew it would be different from anything I have read. 

As a committed fan of literary fiction, the character-driven plot, executed by the protagonist, Calan, already appealed to me.

The story tracks the life of Calan as he navigates the great outdoors and forms a close friendship with Derek, a boy who lives on the Shoshone reservation. Through countless conversations, he learns about the pitfalls of the Western world and the dangers of an excessive materialist mindset and what this can do to our planet.

Through these conversations, and the raising of many philosophical questions to do with climate change, inequality, materialism and the purpose of humanity itself, Cullens exposes the many faults and imperfections at the heart of human life itself. It’s a sharp portrayal of the faults of our species and how our actions damage nature.

Intertwined throughout, are beautiful and charming descriptions of the outdoors, as Calan and Derek go on their many hikes and explore the mountains littered throughout the Wyoming landscape. 

As a lover of the outdoors myself, I couldn’t help but feel enchanted by these descriptions. I found these parts calming to read and Cullen’s words paint a picture of the Wyoming scenery that I am yet to be fortunate enough to explore.

Above all, this book is a deep exploration of someone’s inner thoughts and how they perceive the world around them. It is a plea to look back at nature and treat it with the respect it deserves, but also, a plea to divert from our current mindset and way of life, which is only self-destructing. The destruction of nature is a result of ongoing human selfishness which is at the heart of the story, explored through conversations between Calan and Derek.

Reading this was a pleasurable experience in itself, due to the stunning prose and character-driven plot, but it also caused me to think a great deal. This book reflects on the threat of climate change through the human path of greed, exploitation and capitalism which can overthrow the nature and beautify of the outdoors that we all know and love.

The only aspect of this book I struggled to contend with, was the ending. After documenting the course of Calan’s life thoroughly through the decades, I found the final few chapters confusing and felt like there was no definitive endpoint. I got a bit lost and struggled to see how Calan’s story ended, however, this is a very minor point and may have been missed by my misinterpretation.

You can purchase a copy of the book here


Final Thoughts

For deep thinkers, lovers of the great outdoors and readers who value a character-driven story, this is an ideal read and one I enjoyed immensely. My many thanks go to L.G Cullens for providing me with a copy of this book.

“I ask you who’s the more primitive, a culture that believes in respectful coexistence with the natural world that sustains us all, or a culture that is rife with selfish, material greed to the point of trashing this little blue canoe our children will need to get by in?” 

L.G Cullens, 36.

Originally published on Medium in Write and Review, 22 October, 2020.

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