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From the rugged mudflats of the Northwestern frontier to a rusting strip mall, West of Here is a conversation between two epochs. In his eagerly awaited second novel, Jonathan Evison tells the stories of the people who first inhabited the mythical town of Port Bonita in Washington State from 1887-1891. Moving ahead more than a century to 2005-06, he introduces those who live there now and must deal with the damage done by their predecessors.
The characters are drawn with compassion and truth, the themes are grand and sweeping: regeneration, the trappings of history, the elusive nature of perception, who makes footprints and who follows them. Evison writes with heart and verve, capturing evocative details and unforgettable scenes.
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If You've Been to Port Angeles - Read This Book
Janathan Evison encapsulates what nobody I have met has been able to describe - 21st Century Port Angeles, Washington. This book is for readers craving to make sense of the funeral pyre that is rural Washington's logging and fishing industries. Port Angeles is a dying town, but it still refuses to give up its last breath. That's because its descendants carry a legacy of hard working, hard drinking, and cold fishing in their blood. They live and bleed the stamina of their forbearers. The community survives because it was built to survive. It's a strange magic that draws you in.
West of Here is a journey into the lives of people that you will never meet because you don't live in Port Angeles (Port Bonita in the book). But, you should meet them and get to know them through Evison's characters. They have something to teach you about yourself. Every character in his book is just a little bit of you. If you don't like his characters it may be because they hit too close to home. Don't let that stop you...it takes guts to look into a mirror.
This book is a must read for anyone trying to make sense of the often strange yet compelling Western maritime legacy. It juxtaposes the sea with the wilderness, men against mountains, and lovers against themselves. I think this novel is gutsy and refreshing. Try it with a mind open to seeing the unfamiliar landscape of the Western mind.
6 people found this helpful
A book that literally goes nowhere
If you were to enter this book at a random point and begin reading, you might think you were in the midst of a sweeping historic novel of importance. It's ambitious, certainly. And the author knows how to describe, knows how people think, has great sense of irony and clearly appreciates how close history really is to the present.
But he doesn't know how to impose order on all this within the linear boundary of writing. This book has no boundaries, just as one of the main characters has problems with personal ones. Everything — every thought, every chipmunk, every knowing local reference — is painstakingly described and over-described with no regard to relative importance. I was going to say "relative importance to the plot," but there is no plot. There are story lines. As in real life, many of them are dead ends. But this isn't real life. This is a book, and things need to relate in meaningful ways, not just ironic ones or mystically.
I don't normally write reviews but I was so disappointed with this work I couldn't bite my tongue. It's full of promise, I love the ambition, the author is a skilled wordsmith. But I'm not sure he has anything in particular to say here.
One other observation: The reader is excellent, and that makes all the more painful the realization that something huge is missing from the worlds depicted here: There is a nearly complete lack of joy in any of these lives. Just as it's unrealistic to depict life as always happy, so too is it unrealistic to depict it as completely hopeless and full of no good fortune.
3 people found this helpful
First of all, I love sagas. I particularly like historical fiction. and so I was very interested in listening to this book. However, there are so many characters, separated by more than a century, that the thread (and interest) is hard to follow. I really didn't identify with or care about any of the various characters or their plights. I haven't listened to the reader before and I thought that he was good. So I plodded through most of the book and gave up half way through the second part...something that I almost never do.
8 people found this helpful
- Elizabeth B. Brandt
Wonderful Novel -- Great Narration
I enjoyed this novel very much. The narration was truly great. Ballerini really brought the characters to life. I am from the Pacific Northwest and have traveled in the Olympic Peninsula and I especially appreciated that his pronunciation of place names was spot on.
The novel itself is a great study in change, the relationship of people to the land, the cost of mismatched expectations and the human survival instinct.
1 person found this helpful
Depressing and perplexing
Like the previous reviewer, I also am abandoning with 5 hours to go. I do think Evison is a talented writer; his characters well drawn. But each character is so trapped in difficult circumstance, each so burdened with hopelessness, it just wears on the listener to the point where one just wants the book to end The characters do not so much as advance or change as survive. One stops caring. That admittedly is more a reflection of me than Evison's writing, but be forewarned - this is a gloomy read. I also do not see much ( if any) connection between 1890 and 2006, other than each has its own set of difficulties. There is no thread connecting the two time periods.
A disappointing selection
4 people found this helpful
Comes together slowly...
This comes together slowly and is sometimes hard to keep up with the characters and their connection.
I didn't like it!
I kept on listening since it was a time filler, but found it often crude. I was hoping for a clincer for the story to give it more meaning but was disapointed to the very end.
I would have liked it to stay more in the historical mode. The references to the Raiders baffled me. The Raiders are in Oakland.....the SeaHawks are in Seattle....unless there's another televised Raiders team in Port Bonita. Hmmmm.