Like some others, I was hoped this book would add depth to my enjoyment of the natural beauty of the Olympic Peninsula. Unfortunately, it proved to be an overlong string of poorly written sketches - a lot of good ideas only slightly realized. Several times I was stopped in my tracks by misspelled words that an editor should have caught since the author didn’t. I forged on past shallow characters and meager descriptions of a uniquely dense natural world (compare this to Kesey’s evocation of the Oregon forests in “Sometimes A Great Notion”) hoping to find the point of the story. I finally had to give it up when the author introduced an elderly librarian as “Flabby Arms”. It was one thing for his character to note that physical condition as a sign of her age, but for Evison to go on using the snarky term in place of her name or position was just typical of his sophomoric character development. I’m sorry that I labored so long trying to find something to like in “West of Here”. What a contrast when I picked up (and couldn’t put down) “The Sympathizer” by Viet Thanh Nguyen. Now that’s how to write!
I used to live outside of Port Angeles, and worked on the Elwha prior to the dam removal, so I was interested in the background and setting. The historical plot line seemed well researched and wove together interestingly with the modern story. Ultimately though, I just couldn't get past the overwrought style and cartoonish characters. I felt like I was reading Young Adult fiction, and was never able to be fully carried away. It has so many story elements I love: PNW history, a dash of the supernatural, overland adventure. I wanted to like it, but it was just too corny for my taste.
"Set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, Washington, this novel is composed of chapters that alternate between the present day and the 1890s. The inhabitants of Port Bonita at the end of the 1800s have lofty goals - building a dam, exploring the interior - whereas the current inhabitants would settle for a date or a case of beer. Like the entrepreneurial spirit of the town's founders, the dam itself is under threat as residents want to destroy it to bring back fish runs. With a big cast of well-realised characters, heady themes of discovering, taming, and rediscovering nature, and a strong sense of place, this novel will appeal to a wide range of readers, from those who love the Pacific Northwest to those interested in historical fiction." July 2013 Fiction A to Z newsletter http://www.nextreads.com/Display2.aspx?SID=5acc8fc1-4e91-4ebe-906d-f8fc5e82a8e0&N=655619
I was more fascinated by the frontier days portion of the story than by the modern days parts.
Epic, sweeping, historical and modern, gritty and mystical. These are words that describe this tale of events over 100 years ago and more recently. This tells the story of Port Bonita in western Washington State. Many of the chapters tell about the city's founding fathers and mothers, including entrepreneurs, native peoples and people just pushing progress in the form of a dam on the nearby river. Other chapters discuss people trying to make it in the modern city working menial jobs etc. Many of the founding families are still present in the modern stories. There is a psychic connection between members of a native american family from the past and present. This is a well-written story that is gripping to readers wanting a good story filled with adventure and character development. You meet many types of people on these pages, both good people and bad and those in-between.
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