Synopses & Reviews
The lives of young Culver, his twice-married mother, and his charismatic uncle Jake have been always overshadowed by the death of Culver's father in a fishing accident. When a suspicious fire destroys the town mill and three murders occur, Culver is engulfed by the dangers he finds lurking in the place he'd come to call home. Love, death, coming of age, and Native American spiritual beliefs flow together with the forces of nature in this novel.
"Culver, a mild-mannered and likable young teen growing up in a small Northwestern town, is trying to sort out a great deal of confusing stuff: his father's drowning death; the bigotry evident against local Indians; his mother's dislike for his charismatic Uncle Jake; the way his outlaw stepfather, wanted for torching a railroad compound, keeps popping in and out of his life. Culver's interests run to the physical-basketball, fly-fishing and working at his uncle's bait-and-tackle shop. It's there that he receives an informal education at the feet of a group of men-dubbed the "backroom boys" by narrator Culver-who hang around the store and who include a cropduster, a glue-mixer at the local lumber mill, a baker, a local radio personality and an enigmatic Indian sheriff. Culver is seduced by the group's easy joviality and his Uncle Jake's heroic streak, which manifests when a fire claims the mill. But the boy discovers a secret involving his dead father that drives a wedge between himself and his uncle, and that threatens to make an adult out of him before his time. Lesley (Winterkill) is a smooth and talented writer, with a pleasing touch for detail and an unwavering confidence. His material tends to the sentimental: his central metaphor, a skyful of invented constellations as related to Culver by Uncle Jake, is an easy image, neither compelling nor powerful. But Culver is an unusually appealing character, and when the novel's close toes a maudlin line, it feels almost earned." Publishers Weekly
"City boy though I am, I fell into Craig's Lesley's wonderfully told story as though it were my own....It reminded me once again of just how welcome you can feel in the midst of a novel." Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio
"An accomplished book. Lesley's biblical, metaphoric invocations of fire and water are powerfully drawn...Unsentimental, vigorous and compassionate." Valerie Miner, The Boston Sunday Globe
"An exquisite novel that holds the voices of the river and its people in perfect balance. It is a story that stays with you and grows between silences. Mr. Lesley is an empathetic force in fiction." Terry Tempest Williams
"A complex and vivid and surprisingly funny book, a book I greatly admire." Robert Olen Butler
"An exquisitely delineated map of America. All of our history is encompassed in its pages." Carolyn See
"[Lesley's] well-defined characters pull us quickly into small-town life...and through them we discover another character, a wild river that runs through this wonderful novel like a great shudder." Barry Lopez
"Though the novel contains a few too many flights of fly-fishing-inspired lyricism, it further establishes the author as a major voice in the fiction of the American West." Booklist
About the Author
is a lifelong resident of the Pacific Northwest. He has received the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association Book Award for both Winterkill
and for The Sky Fisherman.
He is also the author of River Song
and Storm Rider
. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and two daughters.