Mink River

Mink River

4.5 4
by Brian Doyle

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Like Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood and Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Brian Doyle's stunning fiction debut brings a town to life through the jumbled lives and braided stories of its people.See more details below


Like Dylan Thomas's Under Milk Wood and Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Brian Doyle's stunning fiction debut brings a town to life through the jumbled lives and braided stories of its people.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Community is the beating heart of this fresh, memorable debut with an omniscient narrator and dozens of characters living in Neawanaka, a small coastal Oregon town. Daniel Cooney, a 12-year-old who wears his hair in three different-colored braids, has a terrible bike accident in the woods and is rescued by a bear. Daniel's grandfather, Worried Man, is able to sense others' pain even from a distance and goes on a dangerous mountain mission to track down the source of time with his dear friend, Cedar. Other key stories involve a young police officer whose life is threatened, a doctor who smokes one cigarette for each apostle per day, a lusty teenage couple who work at a shingle factory, and a crow who can speak English. The fantastical blends with the natural elements in this original, postmodern, shimmering tapestry of smalltown life that profits from the oral traditions of the town's population of Native Americans and Irish immigrants. Those intrigued by the cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest will treasure every lyrical sentence. (Oct.)
Library Journal
Stories that sing in many voices, "braided and woven…leading one to another," shape Doyle's debut novel. Worried Man and Cedar are the entire Department of Public Works for Neawanaka, a small Oregon coastal town at the mouth of the Mink River. Beyond fixing potholes, they make the Oral History Project their mission. Worried Man tapes Native American stories from his Salish ancestors for Daniel, his 12-year-old grandson. Owen Cooney, Daniel's father, runs the Auto & Other Repair and has his own stories about his Irish ancestors, as do the O Donnells, led by fiery Red Hugh, eking out a living as a farmer. Other stories flow from Daniel's mother, No Horses, a sculptress who cannot find wood with the right spirit; the town doctor, who offers solace to broken bodies; and Michael, the opera-loving cop who feels burdened by what he sees every day. VERDICT Award-winning essayist Doyle writes with an inventive and seductive style that echoes that of ancient storytellers. This lyrical mix of natural history, poetry, and Salish and Celtic lore offers crime, heartaches, celebrations, healing, and death. Readers who appreciate modern classics like Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio or William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying will find much to savor here. Enthusiastically recommended.—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., Grand Junction, CO
Kirkus Reviews

The prosaic and the spiritual merge in a portrait of life in a small Oregon town.

Doyle's debut novel makes heavy demands on the reader's capacity to suspend disbelief: In the Pacific Coast village of Neawanaka, a crow is an intimate confidante; a bear kindly steps in to save a human life; and the nature of time is somehow lurking in the nearby mountains.The humans who inhabit this place are earthbound folk, though, and Doyle's main point is to show how the mystical can influence otherwise ordinary lives. The novel features more than a dozen characters, though Doyle spends most of his time on just a handful: Billy and George, aging co-workers at the Department of Public Works; Owen, a repair-shop owner who consults regularly with that crow; his wife, Nora, a sculptor; and their young son, Daniel. The book is largely a series of loose, alternating portraits of each resident, and the story isn't so much plotted as designed to create opportunities for the townsfolk to come together. One thread, for instance, involves Daniel, who suffers a nasty bicycle accident that prompts the residents to bond together to save him. (Even the town doctor has a whiff of weirdness, naming the cigarettes he smokes after the apostles.) Accepting the notion that a crow can deliver the news of the accident and that a bear can be a lifesaver is surprisingly easy; Doyle firmly establishes the off-kilter nature of the town early. It's much harder, though,to be patient with the author's persistent overwriting. The logorrhea is intended to give the novel a tone that's both impressionistic and operatic, particularly in passages where Owen muses on his family's Irish spiritual heritage and Billy recalls local Native-American lore. The book might have worked as a kind of West CoastWinesburg, Ohio, suffused as it is with empathy for working-class residents and family secrets. Butas the concluding chapters feature plot turns about a spiritual mountain trek and a gun-toting assailant, the novel's initial home-and-hearth charm dissolves into hackneyed storytelling and grating, run-on sentences.

A victim of sprawling ambition, both in plot and prose.

From the Publisher
"Doyle writes with an inventive and seductive style that echoes that of ancient storytellers." —Library Journal Starred Review

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Product Details

Oregon State University Press
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Product dimensions:
5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.80(d)

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