Friday, February 25, 2011

West of Here -- and a Bonus!

I'm having fun reading a new novel, West of Here, by Jonathan Evison, set in the fictional Olympic Peninsula town of Port Bonita, in America's last frontier. The novel travels back and forth in time between the late 1800s and 2006, as Port Bonita travels from its hopeful, forward-looking genesis to its contemporary sad-sack town. Evison paints a vast canvas with gorgeous descriptions of the northwest and a wide array of characters. It's a book I'm finding hard to put down (which makes work a challenge) because I want to know what's going to happen next with each character.

Here's what one reviewer had to say: "Evison bravely sets out to conquer big stories and big themes, and the result is a daring, gorgeously structured, and deeply satisfying expedition of a novel. West of Here deftly connects lives and centuries, pipe dreams and fierce realities, the sensibilities of the modern with the storytelling punch of the classic." (James P. Othmer)

And one of my favorite writers, Jim Lynch (The Highest Tide, Border Songs), calls it a "creative bonanza of a novel," and says Evison writes "with a big, playful heart."

Evison's debut novel, All About Lulu, was published in 2008 to critical acclaim, winning the Washington State Book Award. In 2009, he was awarded a Richard Buckley Fellowship from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. Algonquin editor Chuck Adams (Water for Elephants, A Reliable Wife, An Arsonist's Guide to Writers Homes in New England) has called West of Here the best novel he's worked on in more than four decades of publishing. In his teens, Evison was the founding member and frontman of the Seattle punk band March of Crimes, which included future members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden. Born in San Jose, California, he now lives on an island in Western Washington.

In the contemporary Port Bonita, characters often gather at the Bushwhacker bar and knock down a few beers, usually a Kilt Lifter. How would you like your very own Kilt Lifter beer glass? We have a handful at the store, and will happily give you one with each copy of West of Here that you purchase. How's that for a deal?

Here's a brief video documentary by Mark McKnight in which Evison discusses his writing process.

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