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Friday, April 1, 2011

West of Here

West of Here

Jonathon Evison

Algonquin Books, 2011

Alternate stories set in a fictional town on Washington State's Pacific coast contrasts the goals of the pioneers who settled there in 1890 with the very different problems of the town's present-day inhabitants. Action jumps between the 1890s, when explorers, businesspeople, American Indians, and other characters were attempting to put the fictional town of Port Bonita, on Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, “on the map,” and 2006, when the current inhabitants are in the process of dismantling the dam that their ancestors built. You will need to make a list in order to keep the cast of characters straight – both in the historical chapters and the modern day ones – because they will make your head swirl. In fact, some may say the characters are too overwhelming, the plot lines too varied, and the switching back and forth too confusing to be enjoyable. I think, however, that the author does a good job keeping things straight. My problem is that I didn’t much care for any of the characters nor their fates, so I had a hard time slogging through this massive tome.

I’m not sure I can advise others to read this book or not. The best I can do is warn you of its size, ridiculous number of characters, and the slow and plodding nature of the writing. You will not thrill at the action and adventure of this novel, but you may appreciate the beautiful descriptions of the Pacific Northwest wilderness and the strong sense of place that the author evokes.


Other books by this author:

All About Lulu (2008)

Other books you may enjoy:

The Other by David Guterson (2008)

When two boys--John William Barry and Neil Countryman-- meet in 1972 at age sixteen, they're brought together by what they have in common: a fierce intensity and a love of the outdoors that takes them, together and often, into Washington's remote backcountry, where they must rely on their wits--and each other--to survive. Soon after graduating from college, Neil sets out on a path that will lead him toward a life as a devoted schoolteacher and family man. But John makes a radically different choice, dropping out of college and moving deep into the woods, convinced that it is the only way to live without hypocrisy. When John enlists Neil to help him disappear completely, Neil finds himself drawn into a web of secrets and often agonizing responsibility, deceit, and tragedy--one that will finally break open with a wholly unexpected, life-altering revelation.

The Highest Tide by Jim Lynch (2005)

Miles O'Malley, a boy with a fascination for the sea, copes with the trials of growing up, his infatuation with the girl next door, bickering parents, and his fear that his life and his beloved Puget Sound are slipping away.

The Whistling Season by Ivan Doig (2006)

Hired as a housekeeper to work on the early 1900s Montana homestead of widower Oliver Milliron, the irreverent Rose and her brother, Morris, endeavor to educate the widower's sons while witnessing local efforts on a massive irrigation project.

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