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Clearcutby Nina Shengold
Synopses & Reviews
Set in the gloriously rugged backwoods of the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s, Nina Shengold's gripping debut novel follows three people in search of new lives deep into uncharted terrain of the body and heart.
When rough-hewn loner Earley Ritter picks up a hitchhiker one rainy night, he can't imagine how much it will change his life. A "shake-rat" who salvages cedar stumps left when loggers clearcut, Earley seems to have little in common with Reed Alton, a gifted Berkeley dropout. But when Earley meets Zan, the fiery and mysterious woman Reed has been following, erotic sparks fly in unexpected directions. Thrown together in the splendid isolation of the woods, with passions and tensions mounting, the unlikely trio achieves a fragile balance that — like their idyllic patch of forest — will be shattered by violence.
At once a page-turning psychological drama and a colorful, wildly comic recreation of a lost time and place, Clearcut explores the boundaries that divide us, and what it takes to cross them.
"Playwright Shengold debuts with a shaggy, steamy '70s mnage trois in a Pacific Northwest logging town. Chainsaw-wielding 'shake-rat' Earley Ritter (he clears and sells stump chips) finds a rare companionship with a young hitchhiker from Berkeley, Reed Alton, despite their differences in background and logging experience. Earley is a big mountain-man loner who lives in a bus parked in the woods, while Reed is a skinny, smart-alecky rich-boy novice pining for his sometime girlfriend, Zan, whom they set off to look for in a tree-planting camp. Zany, shapely Zan comes on to manly Earley and comforts Reed, holding them both in thrall, and pretty soon the three are getting intimate in Earley's hippie bus. During the week, the two men labor side by side at the exhausting work of clearing stumps; joined by their worship of Zan, they become lovers. When an outsider witnesses these hot-house shenanigans, violence erupts and Zan flees to save her own skin, leaving the men to face a tragic fate atop Washington's Mount Olympus. Shengold's characters are richly three-dimensional, and plenty of authentic era detail makes for a ripping read. Agent, Phyllis Wender. (Aug.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"A stunning book, one of the best literary novels I have come across in a long time. Shengold's prose is fluent like a river, and her characters are as sharp as knives in this beautiful love story." Da Chen, author of Colors of the Mountain
"A beautiful, romantic, alive book. Clearcut is the patchouli and reckless love of the '70s, the rugged beauty and wreckage of the Pacific Northwest forests, woven together with a storyteller's grace and the great grand character of Earley Ritter, with whom every reader will fall in love." Amy Bloom, author of Love Invents Us
"Shengold captures the sorrow and loss that are the constant companions of bliss." Rebecca Stowe, author of The Shadow of Desire
Set in the primal splendor of the Pacific Northwest, Shengold's debut novel is a provocative, explicitly sensual, and deeply moving story that evinces both Shengold's unerring eye for comic detail and her surehanded skill at capturing the deepest contours of her characters' emotional lives.
About the Author
Nina Shengold is an award-winning playwright and screenwriter, and artistic director of the theatre group Actors & Writers. She lives in upstate New York.
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