Synopses & Reviews
Set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, on Washington State's rugged Pacific coast, West of Here
is propelled by a story that both re-creates and celebrates the American experience — it is storytelling on the grandest scale. With one segment of the narrative focused on the town's founders circa 1890 and another showing the lives of their descendants in 2006, the novel develops as a kind of conversation between two epochs, one rushing blindly toward the future and the other struggling to undo the damage of the past.
An exposition on the effects of time, on how something said or done in one generation keeps echoing through all the years that follow, and how mistakes keep happening and people keep on trying to be strong and brave and, most important, just and right, West of Here harks back to the work of such masters of Americana as Bret Harte, Edna Ferber, and Larry McMurtry, writers whose fiction turned history into myth and myth into a nation's shared experience. It is a bold novel by a writer destined to become a major force in American literature.
"A century after the late-19th-century settlers of Olympic Peninsula to the west of Seattle set out to build a dam, their descendants want to demolish it to bring back fish runs, providing one of the many plots in this satisfyingly meaty work from Evison (All about Lulu). The scenes of the early settlers track an expedition into the Olympic wilderness and the evolving relations between settlers and the Klallam tribe, provide insights into early feminism, and outline an entrepreneur's dream to build the all-important dam. By comparison, the contemporary stories are chock-full of modern woe and malaise, including a Bigfoot watcher and seafood plant worker who wishes to relive his glory days as a high school basketball star; an ex-convict who sets out into the wilderness to live off the land; and an environmental scientist who is hit with an unexpected development. Evison does a terrific job at creating a sense of place as he skips back and forth across the century, cutting between short chapters to sustain a propulsive momentum while juggling a sprawling network of plots and a massive cast of characters real enough to walk off the page. A big novel about the discovery and rediscovery of nature, starting over, and the sometimes piercing reverberations of history, this is a damn fine book. (Feb.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"Fans of Jess Walter and Jim Lynch will be thrilled to find another author whose love for the Pacific Northwest and its people shines through with humor and clarity." Library Journal (starred review)
"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. Every sentence, character, and hard-won patch of Pacific Northwestern earth shimmers with kinetic truth." James P. Othmer, author of The Futurist
"Jonathan Evison writes with a big playful heart. West of Here is a creative bonanza of a novel about the dreamers who settled this lush corner of the country and the people who wake up here today. Its characters and story lines are separated by more than a century yet bound by geography, a dam, and a shared humanity that spills across these pages." Jim Lynch, author of Border Songs
"Intelligent, insightful, poignant, funny, endlessly entertaining, and perpetually thought-provoking, West of Here proves that Jonathan Evison is a major new voice in American fiction." David Liss, author of The Whiskey Rebels
"Well-plotted, literate....Evison moves his narrative backward and forward through time, taking a leisurely approach to telling a story that is seldom dramatic, but that Westerners will recognize as their own." Kirkus Reviews
"Jonathan Evison, author of the 2009 Washington State Book Award-winning All About Lulu
, returns with West of Here
, a fantastic 482-page doorstop of a novel chronicling the clashing cultures of a peripatetic group of immigrant settlers and Klallam Indians in the fictional town of Port Bonita, in the Olympic Peninsula. Bearing the hallmarks of an epic yarn, the novel boasts frontier exploits, Native American mysticism, Bigfoot, and an environmental cause wound into its myriad character stories." Robert M. Detman, Rain Taxi
(Read the entire Rain Taxi review
At the foot of the Elwha River, the muddy outpost of Port Bonita is about to boom, fueled by a ragtag band of dizzyingly disparate men and women unified only in their visions of a more prosperous future. A failed accountant by the name of Ethan Thornburgh has just arrived in Port Bonita to reclaim the woman he loves and start a family. Ethan's obsession with a brighter future impels the damming of the mighty Elwha to harness its power and put Port Bonita on the map.
More than a century later, his great-great grandson, a middle manager at a failing fish- packing plant, is destined to oversee the undoing of that vision, as the great Thornburgh dam is marked for demolition, having blocked the very lifeline that could have sustained the town. West of Here is a grand and playful odyssey, a multilayered saga of destiny and greed, adventure and passion, that chronicles the life of one small town, turning America's history into myth, and myth into a nation's shared experience.
About the Author
Jonathan Evison is an American writer best known for his debut novel All About Lulu published in 2008, which won critical acclaim, including the Washington State Book Award. In 2009, Evison was awarded a Richard Buckley Fellowship from the Christopher Isherwood Foundation. A second novel, West of Here, will be released in February 2011 from 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 over 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.