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West of Here
by Jonathan Evison
Kindle Edition : 512 pages
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At the foot of the Elwha River, the muddy outpost of Port Bonita is about to boom, fueled by a ragtag band of dizzyingly disparate men and women unified only in their visions of a more prosperous future. A failed accountant by the name of Ethan Thornburgh has just arrived in Port Bonita to reclaim the woman he loves and start a family. Ethan’s obsession with a brighter future impels the damming of the mighty Elwha to harness its power and put Port Bonita on the map.
More than a century later, his great-great grandson, a middle manager at a failing fish- packing plant, is destined to oversee the undoing of that vision, as the great Thornburgh dam is marked for demolition, having blocked the very lifeline that could have sustained the town. West of Here is a grand and playful odyssey, a multilayered saga of destiny and greed, adventure and passion, that chronicles the life of one small town, turning America’s history into myth, and myth into a nation’s shared experience.
Editorial ReviewAmazon Best Books of the Month, February 2011: Jonathan Evison opens his electrifying epic, West of Here, at the Elwha River dam, where over a hundred years since settlers of the fictional town of Port Bonita tamed the river, their descendants gather in anticipation of the dam's blasting, and a new era of restoration. Across the next five hundred pages, Evison's story moves between 2006 and the town's earliest days at the close of the 19th century, overlaying stories of the people who passed through or dug in at Port Bonita, which swelled from settlement to town on the ragged shoreline of Washington State's Strait of Juan de Fuca. The past is populated by intrepid folk--an exploration party penetrating the Olympic Mountain range in the depths of winter, Klallam natives sickened by homeland eviction and whiskey, a young feminist at odds with motherhood, a prostitute doing covert battle with her whorehouse's owner, and an idealistic entrepreneur, blasting the river canyon into submission. In 2006, we meet their softer progeny--an ex-con who flees into the mountains with a stash of Snickers, the lonely parole officer determined to find him, a fish processing plant worker with a Bigfoot fixation, a native woman who rethinks her whole life when her son has a psychic break, and more memorable characters haunted by the past, by their unlived lives, by themselves. Though its themes are weighty, West of Here never bogs down--irreverent humor, lustrous prose, and unexpected moments animate a tale as vast as the land it inhabits. --Mari Malcolm
Excerptfootprints, september 2006
Just as the keynote address was winding down, the rain came hissing up the little valley in sheets. Crepe paper streamers began bleeding red and blue streaks down the front of the dirty white stage, and the canopy began to sag beneath the weight of standing water, draining a cold rivulet down the tuba player's back. When the rain started coming sideways in great gusts, the band furiously began packing their gear. In the audience, corn dogs turned to mush and cotton candy wilted. The crowd quickly scattered, and within minutes the exodus was all but complete. Hundreds of Port Bonitans funneled through the exits toward their cars, leaving behind a vast muddy clearing riddled with sullied napkins and paperboard boats. ... view entire excerpt...
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