A charming, humorous and big hearted epic that comes with great praise from the US.
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 humour, lustrous prose, and unexpected moments animate a tale as vast as the land it inhabits.
Riotously funny...wonderfully charming - New York Times Book Review
[A] booming, bighearted epic - Vanity Fair
[An] expansive, century-spanning novel...West of Here is the kind of work that begs to be called sweeping, with its large cast of characters encompassing multiple eras, sturdy American themes of community and nature, and a style that could be called cinematic...the big picture is pretty impressive - Entertainment Weekly
...irreverent humor, lustrous prose, and unexpected moments animate a tale as vast as the land it inhabits. - amazon.com Best Books of February 2011
An enjoyable, meaty read - a vision of a place told through the people who find themselves at the edge of America's idea of itself - Los Angeles Times
Evison does a terrific job at creating a sense of place as he skips back and forth across the century, cutting between short chapters to sustain a propulsive momentum while juggling a sprawling network of plots and a massive cast of characters real enough to walk off the page. A big novel about the discovery and rediscovery of nature, starting over, and the sometimes piercing reverberations of history, this is a damn fine book. - Publisher's Weekly
Any one of Evison's numerous major characters could have owned his or her own novel; that they coexist perfectly in this one, undiminished but without overwhelming one another, is testament to the book's greatness. - Booklist starred review.
This book is a living, breathing testament to Evison's singular talent for creating portraits of people who may be fictional, but nevertheless are so vital that one is certain their names must be in a historic register somewhere. Like the people in his book, Evison's grand ambition seems to have been snatched out of thin air and made real in a way that is simply undeniable - BookPage