Border Songs

Border Songs

by Jim Lynch


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Set in the previously sleepy hinterlands straddling Washington state and British Columbia, Border Songs is the story of Brandon Vanderkool, six foot eight, frequently tongue-tied, severely dyslexic, and romantically inept. Passionate about bird-watching, Brandon has a hard time mustering enthusiasm for his new job as a Border Patrol agent guarding thirty miles of largely invisible boundary. But to everyone’s surprise, he excels at catching illegal immigrants, and as drug runners, politicians, surveillance cameras, and a potential sweetheart flock to this scrap of land, Brandon is suddenly at the center of something much bigger than himself.
A magnificent novel of birding, smuggling, farming and extraordinary love, Border Songs welcomes us to a changing community populated with some of the most memorable characters in recent fiction.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780307456267
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/13/2010
Series: Vintage Contemporaries Series
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 749,105
Product dimensions: 8.04(w) x 5.36(h) x 0.66(d)

About the Author

Jim Lynch lives with his wife and their daughter in Olympia, Washington. As a journalist, he has received the H. L. Mencken Award and a Livingston Award for Young Journalists, among other national honors. His first novel, The Highest Tide, won the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award, appeared on several bestseller lists, was adapted for the stage and has been published in eleven foreign markets.


Olympia, Washington

Date of Birth:

November 3, 1961

Place of Birth:

Seattle, Washington


B.A.s in English and Journalism, 1985

Read an Excerpt

IEVERYONE REMEMBERED the night Brandon Vanderkool flew across the Crawfords’ snowfield and tackled the Prince and Princess of Nowhere. The story was so unusual and repeated so vividly so many times that it braided itself into memories along both sides of the border to the point that you forgot you hadn’t actually witnessed it yourself.The night began like the four before it, with Brandon trying not to feel like an impostor as he scanned the fields, hillsides and roads for people, cars, sacks, shadows or anything else that didn’t belong, doubting once again he had whatever it took to become an agent.He rolled past Tom Dunbar’s dormant raspberry fields, where in a fit of patriotism Big Tom had built a twenty-foot replica of the Statue of Liberty, which was either aging swiftly or perhaps, as the old man claimed, had been vandalized by Canadians. Brandon reluctantly waved at the Erickson brothers—who laughed and mock-saluted once they recognized him in uniform—and rattled past Dirk Hoffman’s dairy, where Dirk himself stood on a wooden stepladder completing his latest reader-board potshot at the environmentalists: MOUTHWASH IS A PESTICIDE TOO! Brandon tapped his horn politely, then swerved through semifrozen potholes across the center line to get a cleaner look at the fringed silhouette of a red-tailed hawk, twenty-six, the white rump of a northern flicker, twenty-seven, and, suspended above everything, the boomerang shape of a solo tree swallow, twenty-eight.Brandon traversed the streets of his life now more than ever, getting paid, so it seemed, to do what he’d always loved doing, to look closely at everything over and over again. The repetition and familiarity suited him. He’d spent all of his twenty-three years in these farmlands and humble towns pinned between the mountains and the inland sea along the top of Washington State. Traveling beyond this grid had always disoriented him, especially when it involved frenzied cities twitching with neon and pigeons and bug-eyed midgets gawking up at him. A couple hours in the glassy canyons of Seattle or Vancouver could jam his circuits, jumble his words and leave him worrying his life would end before he had a chance to understand it.Some people blamed his oddities on his dyslexia, which was so severe that one giddy pediatrician called it a gift: while he might never learn how to spell or read better than the average fourth grader, he’d always see things the rest of us couldn’t. Others speculated that he was simply too large for this world. Though Brandon claimed to be six-six, because that was all the height most people could fathom, he was actually a quarter inch over six-eight—and not a spindly six-eight either, but 232 pounds of meat and bone stacked vertically beneath a lopsided smile and a defiant wedge of hair that gave him the appearance of an unfinished sculpture. His size had always triggered unreasonable expectations. Art teachers claimed that his unusual bird paintings were as extraordinary as his body. Basketball coaches babbled about his potential until he quit hoops for good after watching that huge Indian in Cuckoo’s Nest drop the ball in the hole for a giddy Jack Nicholson. Tall women fawned over his potential too, until they heard his confusing raves and snorting laughs or took a closer look at his art.Near dusk, Brandon wheeled up Northwood past the no casino! yard signs toward the nonchalant border, a geographical handshake heralded here by nothing more than a drainage ditch that turned raucous with horny frogs in the spring and overflowed into both countries every fall. The ditch was one of the few landmarks along the nearly invisible boundary that cleared the Cascades and fell west through lush hills that blurred the line no matter how aggressively it was chainsawed and weed-whacked. From there, as thin as a rumor, the line cut through lakes and swamps and forests and fields. After turning into a ditch for a few miles, the line climbed one more hill before dropping again, slicing through Peace Arch Park and splashing into salt water. The park was all most travelers saw of the border, but locals drove into the valley to gawk at this ditch that divided the two countries and created a rural strip where Canadians and Americans drove on parallel two-lane roads, Boundary Road to the south and Zero Avenue to the north, just a grassy gutter away from each other, waving like friendly neighbors—until recently, that is.Most passersby didn’t notice anything different. The soggy, fertile valley still rolled out for miles in every direction until it bumped into a horseshoe of mountains—Alp-like peaks to the north, a jagged range to the east and Mount Baker’s massive year-round snowball to the southeast—that gave the impression the only way out was west through the low-slung San Juan islands. There were still orderly rows of raspberry canes, fields bigger and greener than the Rose Bowl and dozens of pungent dairies with most of the cows hooked to computers that automated feeding and maximized the river of milk exiting daily in the metal bellies of tankers the size of oil trucks.But a closer look hinted at the changes. Many barns and silos had nothing to do with cattle or farms anymore. U.S. border towns no longer served as burger pit stops for Canadian skiers dragging home from Baker. And nineteen-year-old Americans stopped rallying across the line for the novelty of legal drinking. Yet despite the slump in legitimate commerce, a curious construction boom was taking place on both sides. New cul-de-sacs rolled north like advancing armies, and young Canadians continued stacking trophy homes on abrupt hills with imperial views of America.Brandon trolled Boundary Road past the home of Sophie Winslow, the masseuse who seemingly everyone visited but nobody knew. A black sedan cruised the Canadian side of the ditch, the driver avoiding eye contact and accelerating as Brandon closed in on his family’s thirty-four-acre dairy with its three barns, one silo and two-story house that looked naked in the winter without blooming willows or a dinghy full of tulips pulling your eyes off its weathered planks. Overhead lights brightened the back barn, where his father, no doubt, was resanding teak already rubbed smooth as brass while obsessing over what he still couldn’t afford, such as a mast, sails or a reliable diesel. A television winked through the kitchen window. Was Jeopardy! already on? The show exercised his mother’s memory, as she put it, at least when she remembered to watch it. Brandon glanced back across the ditch at the row of houses along Zero Ave. Did Madeline Rousseau still live with her father? How long had it been since he’d even talked to her? You apparently couldn’t bump into Canadians anymore. Spontaneity had up and left the valley.He puttered past the Moffats’ farm before pulling up for a closer look at icicles dangling from their roadside shed. He thumped his head unfolding from his rig, then snapped off a stout icicle, dipped its flat end into a slushy puddle and froze it like a spike to the hood of his idling rig while listening to the final mechanical exertions of the day—grumbling generators, misfiring V-8s, grinding snowplows. He stamped his thick-soled boots, trying to create room for his toes. The agency’s largest boots were a half size too small and gave him the floating sensation of being detached from the earth. He heard the rat-a-tat of a downy woodpecker, twenty-nine, and the nervous chip of a dark-eyed junco, thirty. Brandon could identify birds a mile away by their size and flight and many of their voices by a single note. During the climax of spring, he often counted a dozen birds from his pillow without opening his eyes. Most birders keep life lists of the species they’ve seen, and the more intense keep annual counts. Brandon kept day lists in his head, whether he intended to or not.He snapped off two smaller icicles, and then tried to moisten and freeze them to opposite sides of his original hood spike, but they wouldn’t stick. He flattened their butt ends with his teeth, redipped them in the puddle and tried again. One held, then the other, creating for several seconds a glittering hood ornament before it toppled and shattered. He was eagerly starting over when he heard what sounded like crackling cellophane.Deer often glided through at this hour. Or maybe the Moffats’ turkeys had just busted loose. When Brandon looked up, he noticed it was snowing again, then counted seven child-sized shadows darting through the curtain of firs dividing the Moffats’ farm from the Crawfords’. Glancing toward the border, to see if others were hopping the ditch, he saw nothing but taillights. By the time he turned back to the trees, the shadows were gone. Grabbing his portable radio, he tried to summon the casual murmur he’d been practicing.“I’ll see if two-twenty-nine’s in the area,” the dispatcher replied in a similar disinterested mumble.229 was Dionne. The thought of his trainer backing him up wasn’t what flustered Brandon. It was the fact that two union guys had already warned him to always wait for backup, whereas Dionne insisted that all he ever needed was someone rolling in his direction. During his first solo patrol he’d heard her say on the radio, “I’ve got bodies,” as if rounding up six Pakistanis were no more complicated than picking up a sixer at the Qwik Stop. She averaged almost twice as many arrests as any other agent and, as a result, was what the others respectfully, if begrudgingly, called a shit magnet.Brandon loped toward the firs before remembering he’d left his motor idling and his Beretta on the passenger seat. Too late. He knew the trees opened into a leased pasture that led to Pangborn Road, where a van was probably waiting, and from there they were just minutes away from vanishing into the I-5 bloodstream. He ran harder once he made out the stampede of tiny footprints beneath branches the size of airplane wings, and two shadows finally bobbed into view. He shouted “Border Patrol!” for the first time in his life. To his ears, sounded like a self-mocking falsetto. He might as well have yelled “Boo!” or “Ready or not!”The shorter shadow glanced back, squealed and slipped to a knee before being hoisted by the other. What if they were just kids? Scaring children was another phobia of his. Babies loved him, but kids cowered no matter how small and friendly he tried to make himself.Lumpy ground almost tripped him twice before he broke free of the trees into a mini-blizzard and a crunchy field. He knew the Crawfords’ pasture was ditched for drainage, but he didn’t know where and stumbled again, half-toppling before lurching back on track and spotting another five of them—or was it seven?—scattered ahead.Even after the academy, a week as a trainee and four nights on solo patrols, he’d never pictured himself in actual pursuit. Everything had been in the abstract, like auditioning for some role he didn’t want or expect to get. But what choices did he have? His father had forced him off the dairy and nobody else was hiring. So here he was, in painful boots, in a slippery pasture less than a mile from his home, in pursuit. Yet compared to faking patrols, this felt oddly relaxing, his body coiling into an efficient glide until Dionne’s warning echoed inside him: Assume everyone is carrying a nuclear device.The road was still sixty yards away and he didn’t see any vehicles waiting, although he heard and then saw one howling in their direction. The smaller shadow glanced back again and squealed. It was light enough to make out her anguished features. A woman? An Asian or a Mexican or . . . a woman. He had an urge to help her, but by the time he caught up with them he was too winded for words. He just lunged for their outer shoulders, simultaneously stubbing his left boot, cramping his right hamstring and catapulting himself horizontally into the sudden blaze of Dionne’s flashlight.That image soon made the rounds on both sides of the border, the first irrefutable evidence that Brandon Vanderkool’s stint with the BP was more than a onetime sight gag like sending a dwarf to the plate to shrink the strike zone. Though Alexandra Cole didn’t see it herself, she would later swear that Brandon flew twenty-six feet from takeoff to landing, which eventually went unquestioned alongside such facts as his flight occurred during a freak blizzard at dusk on March twenty-first, that he was unarmed at the time and wearing size-nineteen boots that were too small. As the story evolved it was ultimately seen as the beginning of a madness and temptation that blew through the valley, but that perspective came later. What made it an instant favorite was that for once a border bust had been made by someone everybody knew. And as it played out, the illegals Brandon tackled were not generic aliens, but rather a regal couple from some unknown nation.From Brandon’s vantage, he was simply airborne long enough to watch himself in flight, and he’d experienced enough similar out-of-body sensations to chalk them up to his gift. Regardless, he saw himself from above, his arms flung out like albatross wings until they collapsed around the runaways in a flying hug as he used their brittle bodies to break his landing. He heard a noise like a snapping wishbone before Dionne shouted his name. Her powerful light swung through snow-flakes the size of chicken feathers, blinding him, his breathless apologies interrupted by the murderous screech of a barn owl. Thirty-one.

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and reading list that follow are intended to enhance your reading group's discussion of Border Songs, Jim Lynch's first novel since his extraordinary debut, The Highest Tide.

1. “Everyone remembered the night Brandon Vanderkool flew across the Crawfords' snowfield and tackled the Prince and Princess of Nowhere.” What does the first sentence of the novel tell us about what's to come?

2. Have you read Jim Lynch's first novel, The Highest Tide? If so, what similarities do you find in Border Songs? Differences?

3. What are the major themes of Border Songs? What point is Lynch trying to make? Is he successful?

4. On page 13, Brandon says, “I think the most interesting people I'll meet these days will be criminals-or people about to become criminals.” Is he right?

5. Discuss Wayne Rousseau: Why does he try to replicate already-existing inventions? What is the significance of his choices-the lightbulb, The Great Gatsby? How does this intersect with his politics?

6. Compare Wayne and Norm. Why are they so antagonistic toward each other?

7. At several points in the novel, characters describe Brandon as seeing things differently, or seeing things that others don't see. Why do you think that is? How does it help him and hurt him?

8. Why does Madeline fall in with Toby? Why does she do what he asks? Why does she suddenly decide to stop?

9. On page 79, Lynch writes, “Now [Norm] felt as if he'd sent his son to the front lines of a war he hadn't realized was going on in his own neighborhood.” How does Norm deal with this guilt? How does the notion of a war affect the way the novel's characters behave?

10. All around him, Norm's life is in upheaval: His cattle are sick, his wife is sick, his son is attracting attention that Norm finds embarrassing. How does he respond?

11. How does Brandon's relationship with the natural world-birds, cows, foliage, and so on-affect his abilities as a Border Patrol officer?

12. Discuss the area's reaction to Brandon's arrest of the bomber/smuggler, on pages 89-93. What is happening here?

13. Several Canadian characters compare the United States' policy on marijuana to Prohibition. Are they right? How does this relate to the vast number of previously law-abiding Americans who are willing to work with smugglers?

14. Why does Brandon stop counting birds (page 103)?

15. On page 156, McAfferty says, “Bad shit has always passed through here, but now we're watching so closely that we see way more of it.” Is this an accurate assessment?

16. Why is Norm building a boat, of all things?

17. What does Pearl's death signify? Is it a turning point for Norm?

18. “Astronauts' footprints stay on the moon forever,” Brandon whispers to Madeline on page 250, “because there's no wind to blow them away.” What is he trying to say? How do you imagine Madeline reacts?

19. What purpose does the character of Sophie serve in the novel? What did you think she was up to? Did the reality surprise you?

20. On page 290, the art expert says of Brandon's work, “His focus appears to be the instant before collapse-or surrender.” What does this mean, in terms of Brandon's art and his life?

21. Discuss the final scene, and Brandon's interaction with the swallows.

For a complete list of available reading group guides, and to sign up for the Reading Group Center enewsletter, visit

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Border Songs 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
GlobalTravelGal More than 1 year ago
Starts a little slowly and builds quickly as a quirky character either stumbles or unravels several border crossing crimes. Beautifully written, once you're in, you're in for the long haul. I think this will be around a long time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I loved The Highest Tide, and at first I wasn't sure if this was living up to that high standard. But this was at least as good, if not better -- more complex, if not quite as magical, but magical all the same. A wonderful book.
nbmars on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved Jim Lynch¿s first novel, a coming of age story about a boy, a girl, and the creatures of the sea, called The Highest Tide. There is a passage in The Highest Tide in which a reporter asks the young protagonist Miles why it is that he¿s always finding things no one else does: ¿Because I¿m always looking ¿ and there are so many things to see.¿ The reporter continues: ¿So, maybe¿ when you found that squid, maybe the earth is trying to tell us something. And if so, what do you think it¿s saying?¿ Miles hesitated and replied, ¿It¿s probably saying, `Pay attention.¿¿In Border Songs, Lynch again tackles similar themes with a boy who pays attention, a girl he loves, and the incredible diversity of Mother Nature's progeny. Although the main character, Brandon Vanderkool, is twenty-three, I would also consider this another coming of age book: Brandon is dyslexic and it is likely he has Asperger¿s Syndrome; his development has been slower than other people's. In fact, he has much in common with the boy in Francisco Stork¿s Marcelo in the Real World, who has Asperger's. Brandon is 6¿8¿ tall, socially and physically awkward, and he rocks back and forth and gets his words backwards when he is nervous (which is basically most of the time when he is not alone). He is incapable of ¿posing.¿ His dad runs a failing dairy farm, his mom has early Alzheimer¿s, and they live on the ill-defined border between the U.S. and Canada in Blaine, at the top left corner of Washington State. The U.S./Canadian border is 4200 miles long, and much of it is ¿less delineated than the average cul-de-sac.¿ Brandon recently signed up with the Border Patrol to help out with expenses at home. It¿s really his first time out ¿in the real world.¿ He was home schooled because of all the teasing, and doesn¿t really know how to interact socially very well. But since he was young, he has been in love with his childhood friend right across the border, Madeline Rousseau.Brandon turns out to be a huge success as a Border Patroller, because he pays attention to things others do not. He knows that if an owl screeches, or a heron takes flight, or birdsong changes, someone is moving through the area. He also goes to places other do not - looking for different birds, or constructing artwork out of nature. But it seems like he¿s always interrupted; incursions across the border are constant. Would-be terrorists and vans full of human cargo make regular runs across his territory. And since the cultivation and use of marijuana is widespread on the Canadian side, there is also an especially large traffic in ¿buds¿ and money.The narrative point of view moves back and forth across the border as well: sometimes we hear from Brandon or his father Norm, and sometimes from Madeline or her father Wayne. Madeline grows marijuana and is kept high and in the thrall of a shady dealer. Wayne uses marijuana for medicinal reasons; he has Multiple Sclerosis. He spends what he believes are his last days seeking to experience "greatness" by replicating the experimental processes followed by geniuses throughout history. Dionne, Brandon¿s earthy supervisor, and Sophie, Brandon¿s nosy but charming neighbor, also take an occasional narrative lead. Dionne is funny, chunky, sexy, droll, sardonic, focused, and absolutely someone you want to go drinking with, even if you don¿t drink. Sophie is everything to everyone, depending on what they want, but with the added humorous touch that both parties are aware of the dynamic.Besides being with Madeline, Brandon is happiest when he experiences the rich variety of bird life by the Semiahmoo Bay [a habitat which supports more than 333 species and is called Canada¿s most important birding area]. After one social occasion to which he was obliged to go, he thought:"Talking was a letdown after the day he¿d had. That morning he¿d counted thirty-two species, including skinny oystercatchers
CasualFriday on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I was hesitant to review this title, because I listened to it rather than read it, and I'm afraid my negative reaction was influenced by a dreadful, loud, hectoring narrator, like Andy Rooney in a bad mood. Possibly in print, I would have been charmed by Brandon, a dyslexic gentle giant, and I would have been amused by the acerbic former professor Wayne Russo and I would have had empathy for struggling farmer Norm. But as it was (and tormented by that irritating voice) I found the story too quirky by half and I just wanted it to be over.
LynnB on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is a wonderful, funny, touching story about Brandon Vanderkool, a young, severely dsylexic Border Patrol officer in Washington state. Brandon sees the world differently from most people and his dsylexia makes speaking and understanding others a challenge at times. Accompanying Brandon in this story of cross-border drug smuggling, illegal migration and friendships, are Canadian and American families living with various illnesses, economic challenges and personal relationships.Brandon's parents (Norm and Jeannette) are running a struggling dairy farm and dealing with Jeannette's memory loss. Brandon's friend Madeleine Rousseau is involved in drug smuggling and struggling to keep her life on an even keel. They, and all the other characters along the border, are well drawn and add to the richness of this story.
Hagelstein on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In Border Songs, Jim Lynch deftly paints a portion of the Canadian-U.S. border that separates Washington from British Colombia. Tension caused by politics and the U.S. effort to secure the border has driven a rift between communities and friends that for years were used to hopping the ditch that constitutes a section of the border to visit between countries. Now a nub of a joint thrown across the ditch in derision, or a late-night incursion to shoot out a new border camera are what passes for interaction, except for the constant flow south of smuggled bodies and loads of B.C. Bud, which the U.S. Border Patrol does its best to stop. Brandon Vanderkool is a new Border Patrol agent who just happened to grow up in Blaine within spitting distance of the border, and still lives there with his parents on the failing family dairy farm.Brandon is a 6¿ 8¿, 23 year old, severely dyslexic, sensitive innocent who watches birds obsessively. He paints birds, and everyone he has arrested, and creates temporary sculptures from natural materials, sometimes on duty, which results in an embarrassing incident. He also happens to be extraordinarily skilled at catching smugglers. Brandon¿s mother is losing her memory. His father is struggling with the farm and the temptation of easy money to be made by looking the other way. Brandon is unused to the attention he is getting by making high-profile arrests, and is trying to reconnect with Madeline Rousseau, a Canadian childhood friend turned bud smuggler.
detailmuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Brandon Vanderkool¿s colleagues on the US Border Patrol rightly call him a ¿s--- magnet.¿ A newbie agent on a 30-mile sector between Washington and British Columbia (where the international border is sometimes a mere ditch between neighbors¿ yards), Brandon is freakishly tall, dyslexic and probably autistic, an avid birder and artist -- with eyes that are ¿really, really wide open [¿] it¿s like he expects something to happen at every moment, no matter where he is or what he¿s doing.¿And happen it does -- from stumbling upon trucks full of illegal immigrants while searching for solitude, to finding contraband where he¿s birding -- all to the reader¿s amazement and amusement, but to Brandon¿s utter dismay since his disabilities make the paperwork and notoriety a nightmare. But when he happens upon a stolen car with a Middle-Eastern driver, a trunkful of explosives, and a map to Seattle¿s Space Needle, everything changes. The Feds descend, the Patrol gathers reinforcements, and local social and political stresses heat to a boil.Still, it¿s a comic boil, deepened by subplots involving a terrific set of secondary characters and eclectic townspeople. A thoughtful, engaging, and thoroughly entertaining read.
SamSattler on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I lost count of how many times the novel ¿Confederacy of Dunces¿ popped into my head as I read Jim Lynch¿s ¿Border Songs,¿ but I do not mean anything even remotely negative about Border Songs when I say that. Lynch¿s new novel has a certain ¿Confederacy of Dunces¿ vibe about it that will appeal to fans of that memorable John Kennedy Toole novel of almost thirty years ago ¿ and that is a good thing. Unusual physical specimens, big men generally perceived by their friends and families to be of the hapless misfit variety, anchor both novels. And as Toole did for his ¿Dunces¿ hero, Lynch surrounds Brandon Vanderkool with quirky characters and plops the lot of them into a unique part of the country ¿ two countries, actually ¿ a little rural community living on both sides of the Washington/British Columbia border. Brandon Vanderkool, six foot eight and so dyslexic that he speaks parts of his sentences backward in times of stress, is a loner whose father pushes him from the family¿s small dairy farm into a job with the U.S. Border Patrol. Suddenly, Brandon is responsible for protecting the very border along which he has spent his entire life and, to everyone¿s surprise, he turns out to be a natural. As a passionate bird watcher, he is so finely attuned to the comings and goings of the local bird population that he almost unconsciously senses when something is out of place. That sense of place allows Brandon to become one of the stars of the Border Patrol, a one-man wrecking crew when it comes to stopping illegal aliens and pot from crossing the border from the Canadian side. Brandon¿s duties with the Border Patrol, though, bring him into daily contact with people he has known all his life, many of whom who still ridicule him out of habit and find it difficult to accept his new position of authority despite all his success.¿Border Songs¿ is a character driven novel and Jim Lynch has populated his little international community with some good ones. Brandon¿s father, Norm, whose dairy herd is desperately ill, is shocked and even a little embarrassed by all the attention Brandon is getting around town. Norm, by nature a dreamer and a worrier, is also terrified at how rapidly Brandon¿s good-natured mother is losing her memory. Madeline Rousseau, to whom Brandon still imagines he has a special bond, grew up within sight of Brandon¿s house but on the Canadian side of the ditch separating the two countries. Now, though, she works for a major pot smuggler and she and Brandon are on different sides of the border in more than one sense. Madeline¿s father, a retired professor, stays busy these days yelling anti-American slogans across the ditch at Norm and trying to replicate great inventions of the past by meticulously recreating the original step-by-step research of the actual inventors. Then there is Sophie, the newly arrived masseuse and gossip collector who video tapes interviews with willing customers and seems to be the only person on either side of the border who has the big picture. ¿Border Songs¿ is a comic look at life on an international border, in this case, a border that is nothing more than a drainage ditch serving the two countries it divides. It is a clear reminder that, while borders are important and necessary, their effects are sometimes absurd, especially when seen through the eyes of those who live so near them.Rated at: 4.0
ccayne on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved Brandon - he's so genuine. His gift of observation delivers many arrests for the border patrol and results in bewilderment for him. He's not sure that it's to anyone's benefit except perhaps his supervisors who are racking up more arrests than they dreamed of. The families along the Washington/Canada border are all interesting - failed dairy farms, mcmansions and a thriving underground pot economy, not to mention the iimmigrants alogn the border. Brandon's own father and mother fight battles with illness and problems with the herd, including beloved Pearl. His childhood friend Madeline becomes involved in the pot production and her father trys to duplicate Einsteins experiments. All in all, Lynch has written a character rich quirky story of people who just don't quite fit in with mainstream Canada or America - I enjoyed every one of them.
Coyote99 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Sometimes confusing account of lives on the Washington State/Canadian border. Marijuana and immigration problems beset a young Dyslexic Border Patrol Officer, Brandon Vanderkool, but it is his attraction to a beautiful but lost Canadian drug-runner that captured my sympathy. Beautifully written character development; Brandon's personality and sensitivity make the book a fascinating read.
athiker52 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great characters. I loved the ending
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AZbear More than 1 year ago
Looking beyond the very unlikely scenario of a dyslexic northern border kid getting a primary assignment to his Blaine, WA home town, the writer skips past a very rigorous Border Patrol Academy Spanish curriculum which in my experience contained NO TRUE/FALSE answers. The ONLY part I found accurate was the character Dionne's assessment of the "Roadie" culture existing on the northern border. "Retired On Active Duty" too well described norther border agents for too many years. Although I believe that is currently changing, I was incredulous that anyone would be entertained by this ludicrous tale. As a retired, career Border Patrolman I love good fiction about the thrills and chills of border work. Southern border work. The only chills I got reading this story were courtesy of our Colorado winter. In all honesty, I could not recommend this book to anyone .