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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.
5 of 5 people found this review helpful
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.
2 of 2 people found this review helpful