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Border Songsby Jim Lynch
If Carl Hiaasen set one of his novels on a residential stretch of boundary line between British Columbia and Washington, or if Richard Russo's characters had relatives in the Pacific Northwest, the result might be something like Border Songs. Northwest native Jim Lynch earned a legion of fans with his bestselling debut, The Highest Tide. Border Songs is the rare sophomore effort that lives up to arguably even exceeds its lofty expectations.
Synopses & Reviews
By the acclaimed author of The Highest Tide, a story of contrary destinies further complicated by the border that separates them.
Six foot eight and severely dyslexic, Brandon Vanderkool has always had an unusual perspective — which comes in handy once his father pushes him off their dairy farm and into the Border Patrol. He used to jump over the ditch into British Columbia but now is responsible for policing a thirty-mile stretch of this largely invisible boundary. Uncomfortable in this uniformed role, he indulges his passion for bird-watching and often finds not only an astonishing variety of species but also a great many smugglers hauling pot into Washington State, as well as potentially more dangerous illegals. What a decade before was a sleepy rural hinterland is now the front line of an escalating war on both drugs and terrorism.
Life on either side of the border is undergoing a similar transformation. Mountaintop mansions in Canada peer down into berry farms that might offer convenient routes into the budding American market, politicians clamor for increased security, surveillance cameras sprout up everywhere and previously law-abiding citizens are tempted to turn a blind eye. Closer to home, Brandon's father battles disease in his herd, and his mother something far more frightening. Madeline Rousseau, who grew up right across the ditch, has seen her gardening skills turn lucrative, while her father keeps busy by replicating great past inventions, medicating himself and railing against imperialism. And overseeing all is the mysterious masseuse who knows everybody's secrets.
Rich in characters contending with a swiftly changing world and their own elusive hopes and dreams, Border Songs is at once comic and tender and momentous — a riveting portrait of a distinctive community, an extraordinary love story and fiction of the highest order.
"Engaging, even heartwarming... Every character is memorable, each etched with distinctive lines and endearing idiosyncrasies." Bill Ott, Booklist
"The action (there's plenty of it) is shot through with wry humor and intermittent suspense.... What's memorable is the masterful use of Brandon as a bridge between the human world, foolish and chaotic, and the more ordered universe of birds." Kirkus Reviews
"Jim Lynch's new novel reads as an antidote to the 21st century: a kind of metaphorical insistence on hope and simplicity and art in the face of a surrounding storm. Border Songs is a quietly ambitious book and it just gets better as it rises to the final satisfying image." Kent Haruf
"Meet Brandon Vanderkool, the most fascinating, memorable, and human character in American fiction since Ignatius J. Reilly of A Confederacy of Dunces. Birder extraordinaire, painter and sculptor, part-savant and ever the Good Samaritan, Brandon also happens to be a 6'8" Border Patrol agent with an uncanny gift for finding contraband and smugglers. Border Songs is a masterwork, and Jim Lynch, for my money, is our best new storyteller since Larry McMurtry: deeply in touch with the natural world, the absurdities of our era, and the hearts and minds of his unforgettable and endlessly surprising characters." Howard Frank Mosher
By the acclaimed author of The Highest Tide comes a story that is at once comic, tender, and momentous — a riveting portrait of a distinctive community, an inventive love story, and fiction of the highest order.
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 best seller lists, was adapted for the stage and has been published in eleven foreign markets.
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