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.


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

Product Details

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

Meet the Author

David Drummond has narrated over seventy audiobooks for Tantor, in genres ranging from current political commentary to historical nonfiction, from fantasy to military, and from thrillers to humor. He has received multiple AudioFile Earphones Awards, including one for his first audiobook, Love 'Em or Lose 'Em: Getting Good People to Stay.

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Mink River 4.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Mink River by Brian Doyle is a great read. I originally picked the book because, like Doyle, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest and anything remotely related to the ocean or the area in general intrigues me. Perhaps it’s the nostalgic feelings and reminders of home that overcomes me when I think about the area where I spent so much time when I was younger, whatever the reason I just love everything and anything about it.  All I knew about Mink River was that it was the story of a small town in the Northwest, other than that I was going into it blind. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect when I picked it up and I have to admit I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t connect with the story. I am happy to say that those nerves were calmed because the book was absolutely fabulous. It centers on the happenings of a small town filled with interesting people. From little Daniel and his three braids, to Worried Man and Ceder, the characters in the book are quintessential of the North West. Everything about the story settings and the stories carried with them the North West feel. Anyone who has visited the area will understand and relate to the descriptions Doyle gives. You are sure to find one character that absolutely intrigues and captivates you.  Doyle does a tremendous job at interweaving this captivating stories and characters with twists and a beautiful prose style. There is something absurd yet sublime about the book and the way Doyle tells it.  Reading Mink River made me remember why I love literature so much. Doyle makes language fun and exciting again. All in all, Mink River is a fantastic novel.
Ashevillegirl More than 1 year ago
Stunningly beautiful! I already miss the characters. Write more, Brian.
ncalle More than 1 year ago
mink river is a beautifully written story reminding the reader that every person and creature within a community has depth; purpose and spirit...this novel deserves more attention!.doyle's gift for the written word is captivating and at times powerful...i'm only disappointed about one thing....that the book came to an end. bravo brian doyle...you have a new fan!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago