Posted by Merry Mao on December 14th, 2010
Title: West of Here
Author: Jonathan Evison
Publisher: Algonquin, February 2011
Summary: In his newest novel, West of Here, Jonathan Evison blends past and present to create a mythical story filled with love, adventure and family dysfunction. Set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, Washington, the novel alternates between the late 1880’s when the town is striving to become a destination in the west to rival Seattle, and 2006, as Port Bonita readies itself to shed its past and move on to an uncertain future.
Evison has populated both eras with wonderfully developed characters. In the 1880’s, James Mather is an adventurer seeking to conquer the rest of the Washington Territory on the eve of its statehood. Ethan Thornburgh is a businessman determined to harness the power of the Elwha River by building a dam to bring electricity, people, and prestige to Port Bonita. The Klallam Indians have seen their traditions vanish and are struggling to co-exist with the settlers. In 2006 the descendants of these settlers are still contending with the consequences of decisions made by their forefathers. As Port Bonita makes plans to tear down the dam, the town must begin to reinvent itself. It is the perfect time for some of its residents to do the same.
I have to admit that it took a few chapters to draw me into this story. Looking back, I have no idea why because once I was in, I loved it. There is a great sense of place in this novel; I was transported back more than 100 years by Evison’s rich detail of the culture and geography of the Northern Pacific. The characters are larger than life while remaining true to life. My personal favorite is Dave Krigstadt who, in 2006, is employed by the High Tide salmon processing plant. Struggling with garnering respect or even consideration from those around him, Krig may be the one to finally break free of his family’s legacy of indifference from others.
Who will like this book? Anyone who enjoys historical fiction and adventure stories.
Recommended by: Sue, Circulation Coordinator