West of Here

( 29 )

Overview

At the foot of the Elwha River, the muddy outpost of Port Bonita is about to boom, fueled by a ragtag band of dizzyingly disparate men and women unified only in their visions of a more prosperous future. A failed accountant by the name of Ethan Thornburgh has just arrived in Port Bonita to reclaim the woman he loves and start a family. Ethan’s obsession with a brighter future impels the damming of the mighty Elwha to harness its power and put Port Bonita on the map.

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West of Here

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Overview

At the foot of the Elwha River, the muddy outpost of Port Bonita is about to boom, fueled by a ragtag band of dizzyingly disparate men and women unified only in their visions of a more prosperous future. A failed accountant by the name of Ethan Thornburgh has just arrived in Port Bonita to reclaim the woman he loves and start a family. Ethan’s obsession with a brighter future impels the damming of the mighty Elwha to harness its power and put Port Bonita on the map.

More than a century later, his great-great grandson, a middle manager at a failing fish- packing plant, is destined to oversee the undoing of that vision, as the great Thornburgh dam is marked for demolition, having blocked the very lifeline that could have sustained the town. West of Here is a grand and playful odyssey, a multilayered saga of destiny and greed, adventure and passion, that chronicles the life of one small town, turning America’s history into myth, and myth into a nation’s shared experience.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

This new novel by Jonathan Evison (All About Lulu) never loses its vivid focus on one Washington State area, but shifts sharply from one century to another. In the final decades of the nineteenth century, settlers in western Washington State construct a dam to utilize for energy. As that major project and Port Bonita evolve, so too do the relations between genders and races. From those scenes, West of Here fast-forwards in brief chapters to the tangled of lives of new millennium residents of the same town. With his numerous characters and plotlines, Evison shows clearly his intent to craft a major novel; the good news is that he has succeeded.

From the Publisher
"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." —Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Evison switches easily between 19th-century vernacular and contemporary lingo, and the tenderly funny result is both pioneer story and social commentary. You'll want to reread it to catch cross-references between the parallel stories." —American Way

"Evison, author of this audacious historical novel, manages a near-impossible feat: first, he creates an almost absurdly complex narrative structure, bridging more than 100 years of life in Washington State and encompassing multiple points of view, and then he grounds the sublime architechtonic whole in the vividly realized daily lives of characters who exist completely in their individual moments but whose actions reverberate back and forth across time . . . [This] is a testament to the books' greatness." —Booklist, starred review

“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

“[A] booming, bighearted epic.” —Vanity Fair

“[A] booming, bighearted epic.” —Vanity Fair

“Riotously funny . . . Wonderfully charming.”
The New York Times Book Review

“Riotously funny . . . Wonderfully charming.”
The New York Times Book Review

“[A] big, booming ruckus of a novel . . . Evison [is] a tremendously gifted storyteller.”
San Francisco Chronicle

“[A] big, booming ruckus of a novel . . . Evison [is] a tremendously gifted storyteller.”
San Francisco Chronicle
“Evison gives us a jaunty, rain-slicked quest story . . . Its ending is clever and satisfying, and its arrival could signal the breakout of a promising career.”
Cleveland Plain Dealer

Booklist
A "booming, bighearted epic." —Vanity Fair
Ron Charles
…Evison introduces a town's worth of daring folk who dream and plot and clash as they carve lives in the "uncharted interior of the Olympic Peninsula." Surrounded by Shaker Indians, feminist Utopians, prophetic children, intrepid explorers, violent barkeepers, gold-hearted prostitutes and visionary dam builders, Evison puts his vertiginous camera on a tripod and gives it a good, swift spin. Hold on tight because soon these short chapters are jumping back and forth to 2006 to follow the modern-day descendants of those original settlers—with a Bigfoot cameo to boot! The result is fun, if dizzying…God help me for saying this, but I could have used twice as many pages to give all these stories room to breathe. And Evison is such an endearing, unpretentiously entertaining writer that I would have stayed up late to read every one.
—The Washington Post
Publishers Weekly
A century after the late–19th-century settlers of Olympic Peninsula to the west of Seattle set out to build a dam, their descendants want to demolish it to bring back fish runs, providing one of the many plots in this satisfyingly meaty work from Evison (All About Lulu). The scenes of the early settlers track an expedition into the Olympic wilderness and the evolving relations between settlers and the Klallam tribe, provide insights into early feminism, and outline an entrepreneur's dream to build the all-important dam. By comparison, the contemporary stories are chock-full of modern woe and malaise, including a Bigfoot watcher and seafood plant worker who wishes to relive his glory days as a high school basketball star; an ex-convict who sets out into the wilderness to live off the land; and an environmental scientist who is hit with an unexpected development. 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. (Feb.)
Entertainment Weekly
“A jaunty, rain-slicked quest story, fat and close to the earth as a smoky cedar log. . . . [West of Here’s] ending is clever and satisfying, and its arrival could signal the breakout of a promising career.”
The Plain Dealer
Vanity Fair
“[A] booming, bighearted epic.”
Vanity Fair
Beauty by the Books - Gail Cooke
“One can only imagine that Ballerini put every ounce of his experience to good use in his narration of this epic, an almost all encompassing tale peopled with a variety of characters from different time periods. . . . He certainly rose to the challenge and gives us a highly listenable reading.”
—Gail Cooke, Beauty by the Books
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Deserves national acclaim.”
Library Journal [starred review]
San Francisco Chronicle
“[A] booming, bighearted epic.”
Vanity Fair
Miami Herald
“Evison, author of this audacious historical novel, manages a near-impossible feat: first, he creates an almost absurdly complex narrative structure, bridging more than 100 years of life in Washington State and encompassing multiple points of view, and then he grounds the sublime architechtonic whole in the vividly realized daily lives of characters who exist completely in their individual moments but whose actions reverberate back and forth across time.”
Booklist [starred review]
The Plain Dealer
“Well-plotted, literate novel of the 19th-century settling of a corner of the West and the still-resounding echoes of decisions made long ago.”
Kirkus Reviews [starred review]
The Harvard Crimson
“Satisfyingly meaty work. . . . 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.”
Publishers Weekly [starred review]
Denver Post
“Evison’s odd genius is to structure his novel geographically, its jagged edges and swirling storylines a mirror of the toothy mountains and uneven estuaries of its setting. . . . The story, like the river, keeps flowing, its author showing us that there are some frontiers humans can never fully tame.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
Los Angeles Times
“Evison, a tremendously gifted storyteller, has staked claim to a wondrous frontier he can proudly call his own.”
San Francisco Chronicle
USA Today
West of Here is a sprawling tragicomic novel about identity—national and personal—that’s as entertaining as it is insightful into the human need to make a mark on the landscape. . . . What makes it big and unforgettable is Evison’s wide-raging imagination and gifted storytelling.”
Miami Herald
Beauty by the Books
“His narrative maintains a realistic style that feels honest and genuine. . . . Evison’s language is clear and easy to read, and he provides stunningly beautiful descriptions of the Pacific Northwest . . . The comprehensive detail of Evison’s descriptions of nature reveals his deep knowledge of the beauty and potential danger of the region.”
The Harvard Crimson
American Way
"Evison switches easily between 19th-century vernacular and contemporary lingo, and the tenderly funny result is both pioneer story and social commentary. You'll want to reread it to catch cross-references between the parallel stories." —American Way
Library Journal
Evison (All About Lulu) deserves national acclaim for his latest novel, which is set in the fictional town of Port Bonita on Washington's Olympic Peninsula. Chapters that alternate between the 1890s and the present result in a Northwest historical novel with modern counterpoints, like Sometimes a Great Notion meets Citizen Vince. At its beginning, Port Bonita was a town of hope and industry. James Mather sets out to explore the rugged interior of the Elwha River valley; Ethan Thornburgh envisions a mighty dam powering a bustling city; his estranged lover, Eva Lambert, prefers a more utopian vision of a commonwealth colony. Flash forward a century, and Port Bonita's residents have less lofty goals: "Krig" Krigstadt thirsts for a steady supply of Kilt Lifter ale; ex-con Timmon Tillman wants to be left the hell alone; his parole officer, Franklin Bell, just wants a woman to date. VERDICT Fans of Jess Walter and Jim Lynch will be thrilled to find another author whose love for the Pacific Northwest and its people shines through with humor and clarity. [Ten-city tour; this title was a pick at BEA and ALA "Editors Buzz" panels.—Ed.]—Christine Perkins, Bellingham P.L., WA
Kirkus Reviews

Well-plotted, literate novel of the 19th-century settling of a corner of the West and the still-resounding echoes of decisions made long ago.

The Olympic Peninsula, west of Seattle, Wash., was little known even to Native American people until very recent times, thanks to its "chaos of snow-clad ranges colliding at odd angles, a bulwark of spiny ridges defending a hulking central range like the jaws of a trap." Those imposing mountains long defied exploration and exploitation, but in time, as sophomore novelist Evison (All About Lulu, 2008) explains, they drew a particular kind of person who just wouldn't go away, seeing in them the promise of endless wealth. So it is with James Mather, an "Arctic explorer, Indian fighter, and rugged individual" who arrives in the soggy outpost of Port Bonita with orders from the governor to bring the place under the aegis of civilization. Ethan Thornburgh, young and dissolute, has a somewhat different vision: He aims to turn the mountains into money, the better to make the place his own domain. The communitarians ("Weren't they socialists or something?"asks a latter-day resident of the place, none too well versed in history), squatters and Indians who live nearby have different visions still. Much of Evison's story—which, naturally, involves a headstrong pioneer woman—is conventional, though, borrowing a page from Ivan Doig's Winter Brothers(1980),it makes room for closely observed notes on American Indian life as seen through the lens of a couple of key players. What brings the story to life, though, is Evison's juxtaposition of a century past with a much different present, in which the derring-do of our forebears is seen as so much criminality, and the things that they built—particularly dams—as so many insults to the land that require undoing and atonement.

Evison moves his narrative backward and forward through time, taking a leisurely approach to telling a story that is seldom dramatic, but that Westerners will recognize as their own.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781616200824
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill
  • Publication date: 1/31/2012
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 512
  • Sales rank: 778,395
  • Product dimensions: 5.68 (w) x 8.02 (h) x 1.36 (d)

Meet the Author

Jonathan Evison lives on an island on the coast of Washington State. His first novel, All About Lulu, won the Washington State Book Award. This is his third novel.

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Read an Excerpt

West of Here

A NOVEL
By Jonathan Evison

ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL

Copyright © 2011 Jonathan Evison
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-1-56512-952-8


Chapter One

footprints

SEPTEMBER 2006

Just as the keynote address was winding down, the rain came hissing up the little valley in sheets. Crepe paper streamers began bleeding red and blue streaks down the front of the dirty white stage, and the canopy began to sag beneath the weight of standing water, draining a cold rivulet down the tuba player's back. When the rain started coming sideways in great gusts, the band furiously began packing their gear. In the audience, corn dogs turned to mush and cotton candy wilted. The crowd quickly scattered, and within minutes the exodus was all but complete. Hundreds of Port Bonitans funneled through the exits toward their cars, leaving behind a vast muddy clearing riddled with sullied napkins and paperboard boats.

Krig stood his ground near center stage, his mesh Raiders jersey plastered to his hairy stomach, as the valediction sounded its final stirring note.

"There is a future," Jared Thornburgh said from the podium. "And it begins right now."

"Hell yes!" Krig shouted, pumping a fist in the air. "Tell it like it is, J-man!" But when he looked around for a reaction, he discovered he was alone. J-man had already vacated the stage and was running for cover.

Knowing that the parking lot would be gridlock, Krig cut a squelchy path across the clearing toward the near edge of the chasm, where a rusting chain-link fence ran high above the sluice gate. Hooking his fingers through the fence, he watched the white water roar through the open jaws of the dam into the canyon a hundred feet below, where even now a beleaguered run of fall chinook sprung from the shallows only to beat their silver heads against the concrete time and again. As a kid he had thought it was funny.

The surface of Lake Thornburgh churned and tossed on the upriver side, slapping at the concrete breakwater. The face of the dam, hulking and gray, teeming with ancient moss below the spillway, was impervious to these conditions. Its monstrous twin turbines knew nothing of their fate as they hummed up through the earth, vibrating in Krig's bones.

Standing there at the edge of the canyon with the wet wind stinging his face, Krig felt the urge to leave part of himself behind, just like the speech said. Grimacing under the strain, he began working the ring back and forth over his fat knuckle for the first time in twenty-two years. It was just a ring. There were eleven more just like it. Hell, even Tobin had one, and he rode the pine most of that season. Krig knew J-man was talking about something bigger. J-man was talking about rewriting history. But you had to start somewhere. When at last Krig managed to work the ring over his knuckle, he held it in his palm and gave pause.

"Well," he said, addressing the ring. "Here goes nothin', I guess."

And rearing back, he let it fly into a stiff headwind, and watched it plummet into the abyss until he lost sight of it. He lingered at the edge of the gorge for a long moment and let the rain wash over him, until his clinging jersey grew heavy. Retracing his own steps across the muddy clearing toward the parking slab, Krig discovered that already the rain was washing away his footprints.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from West of Here by Jonathan Evison Copyright © 2011 by Jonathan Evison. Excerpted by permission of ALGONQUIN BOOKS OF CHAPEL HILL. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 29 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 29 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 20, 2011

    A lovingly told epic of the Pacific Northwest

    Set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, Washington, this book follows two timelines. The first timeline begins in 1889 and focuses on Port Bonita's founding and the damming of the Elwha River which gave the town its identity and life. This timeline is filled with men and women of vision and purpose, the world wide open to them if only they can make the right decisions. The second timeline is in the modern year 2006 and follows the descendants of those original founders. But for them, Port Bonita is no longer thriving, the dam no longer their salvation but their downfall. These men and women would like to have the same sense of purpose their ancestors did, but first they must somehow reconcile their past with their future. It might be time for Port Bonita and its inhabitants to make a change.

    Jonathan Evison writes colorfully with a lot of humor and genuine affection for his many characters - not one written with anything less than absolute vibrancy and depth. The Washington wilderness itself is a character and his descriptions of it are so effortless and beautiful, you trust that he KNOWS this landscape. He makes you feel it.

    The story itself is propulsive. At the beginning you will slowly begin to know the characters and follow them on their paths, learning more and more about them as you turn the pages, then the plot will start to take a stronger hold and pretty soon you will be unable to put the book down until you find out what everyone's destinies will be, until you are finished with the book and sad that it's over. This novel has a pioneer spirit and sense of adventure that captured my attention and imbued in me a childlike sense of wonder at the vastness of things.

    Read this fantastic book. I think it'll make a big splash in 2011.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2011

    very disappointing

    I was hoping for something this book isn't, a thoughtful reflection on the history the Olympic Peninsula and the Elwha valley. Instead, it is a pulp novel with way too many unappealing, poorly developed characters with no meaningful reference to local history in the first third of the book, which is how far I got before deciding not to waste any more of my time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 11, 2012

    Gave up 1/2 way through

    Reading this was like trying to slough my way through knee high mud! I've read a number of books that covers two different eras and all of them had connected the two eras well before mid point.
    Could not see point of story by page 200 something. Too many characters and no central protaganist.
    I've LITERALLY read about a thousand books and this is the third one that I couldn't finish due to above reasons. I don't enjoy giving up reading a book and kept plowing ahead hoping that the plot would tighten up but by about the half way point realized that hope is just a street in LA!
    Good thing this is a library eBook so didn't loose any $$$$$$$$

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 6, 2011

    Very disapointing

    This book just seemed to go no where. It has so many characters I could not help but wonder what the purpose was. Really a waste of time.

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  • Posted March 25, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Good book/Interesting characters

    I enjoyed this book. It is different from what I normally read but picked it up becasue it takes place in an area that I am familiar with. Before I knew it I was completely wrapped up in the daily lives of the characters and the place and time(s) that the story takes place. I love this authors style of writing and went and picked up his earlier book...hope it is as good as this one.

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  • Posted March 24, 2011

    Sweeping, adventurous novel!

    West of Here is a huge, sweeping novel covering so much time and so many different stories that it is impossible not to get swept up in the town of Port Bonita. The story begins in 1889 when Port Bonita is a small, struggling outpost of settlers and indians. Ethan Thornburgh arrives having followed his runaway sweetheart and decides that a dam, blocking up the mighty Elwha for electricity and modern conveniences, will put Port Bonita, and himself, on the map. Contrasting that is present day where the town is now realizing the extent of environmental damage done by the giant dam. Craving a fresh start the town contemplates tearing it down. Woven throughout these main threads are the stories of prostitutes, paroled criminals, three different mothers trying to do the best for their very different children, loners, explorers, and politicians. Washington's rugged and magnificent Olympic Penninsula forms the dramatic backdrop for all these stories.

    Once I stopped trying to keep straight all the different story lines and just allowed myself to inhabit the town of Port Bonita I really enjoyed the book. It was fascinating to follow the thread of how an action in 1889 could have a profound impact on the life of someone on 2006. While there are no fairy tale endings here, the author does an impressive job of wrapping together the many stories and creating a coherent ending. The book feels like one long adventure set in the last era of taming the wild west.

    I listened to West of Here on audio, narrated by Edoardo Ballerini. It must have been a challenging book to read with all the voices to portray and he does an admirable job. He always seemed to capture the spirit of the time and kept the story flowing. This was an excellent audiobook for passing many long days!

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  • Posted March 6, 2011

    dull with a capital d

    this book is well written and i admit i enjoyed the vivid imagery but the story is just to boring. also ther are no mysterious sub plots, it is what it is and thats all it is.

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