West of Here by Jonathan Evison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
I was lucky enough to score an ARC of Jonathan Evison’s West of Here and I have to admit that it surprised me. I knew the man could write, his first novel All About Lulu was a lovely coming of age story told with a unique voice that I liked a lot. But Lulu in no way prepared me for the staggering scope of West of Here.
Set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, Washington, the book follows two timelines. The first timeline begins in 1889 and focuses on Port Bonita's founding and the damming of the Elwha River which gave the town its identity and life. This timeline is filled with men and women of vision and purpose, the world wide open to them if only they can make the right decisions. The second timeline is in the modern year 2006 and follows the descendants of those original founders. But for them, Port Bonita is no longer thriving, the dam no longer their salvation but their downfall. These men and women would like to have the same sense of purpose their ancestors did, but first they must somehow reconcile their past with their future. It might be time for Port Bonita and its inhabitants to make a change.
Jonathan Evison writes colorfully with a lot of humor and genuine affection for his many characters – not one written with anything less than absolute vibrancy and depth. The Washington wilderness itself is a character and his descriptions of it are so effortless and beautiful, you trust that he KNOWS this landscape. He makes you feel it.
The story itself is propulsive. At the beginning you will slowly begin to know the characters and follow them on their paths, learning more and more about them as you turn the pages, then the plot will start to take a strong hold and pretty soon you will be unable to put the book down until you find out what everyone’s destinies will be, until you are finished with the book and sad that it’s over.
I am intrigued by the amount of research that went into the writing of this novel. What is factual and what is imagination? I want to look into the history of the area myself and learn everything I can about it. It’s that pioneer spirit and sense of adventure that captures my attention and imbues in me a childlike sense of wonder at the vastness of things.
So, thanks to Jonathan Evison for writing such a spectacular book. I think this novel is going to be big for him. I’ll definitely be buying at least one copy when it is officially released and I encourage you to do so too.
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