Set along the northern Oregon coast range in the late 1840s, Don Berry’s 1960 landmark novel, Trask, was inspired by the life of settler, mountain man, and fur trapper Elbridge Trask (for whom both a river and a mountain are named here in the Beaver State). Compelling and adventurous, the story follows the titular character as he tries to become the first white man to settle in Tillamook Bay. Along the arduous journey, he and his guide — a friendly Clatsop Indian and spiritual leader named Charley Kehwa — must endure tragedy, torrential weather, rugged climate, and the seemingly bellicose Killamook Indians. Trask is far more than mere historical fiction; it is an insightful and beautifully crafted novel that captures the great uncertainty and promise which the region’s settlers undoubtedly knew all too well. Berry's portrayal of Native culture is compassionate and well-rounded, far from the shallow caricatures that often plague the genre. Trask is the first novel in a remarkable trilogy that includes Moontrap and To Build a Ship. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Set in 1848 on the wild edge of the continent, in the rainforests and rugged headlands of the Oregon coast, Trask follows a mountain man's quest for new opportunities and new land to settle. Elbridge Trask is a restless man, a gambler with God, nature, and life itself. Yearning for change, he sets out with Wakila, a young Clatsop Indian, and Charley Kehwa, a tamanawis man or spiritual leader of the tribe, on an extraordinary journey of discovery.
Trask is at once a gripping tale of adventure and a portrayal of one man's return to the naked simplicity of life. Inspired by his belief in the transcendent power of nature, his fascination with Eastern philosophy, and the lives of historical men and women, Don Berry created a story that is strongly imagined and powerfully rendered-a landmark work. This new edition of Berry's celebrated first novel includes an introduction by Jeff Baker, book critic for The Oregonian.
"In Trask and Charley, Don Berry creates two of the finest imaginable men from their respective cultures. The result is an Indian/Euro encounter that feels absolutely fateful, and resonates all the way into the heart." David James Duncan
"This is the most exciting book I have read in years." Saturday Review
About the Author
Don Berry (1932–2001) considered himself a native Oregonian, despite the fact that he was born in Minnesota, with a lineage from Fox Indians. After attending Reed College, where his housemates included poet Gary Snyder, who shared his interest in Eastern metaphysics, Berry began a lifetime of pursuing his many passions: playing down-home blues and composing synthesizer music, sumi drawing and painting, sculpting in bronze, exploring theoretical mathematics, and writing for prize-winning films.
In addition to his three novels about the Oregon Territory (Trask, Moontrap, and To Build a Ship) published in the early 1960s, Berry wrote A Majority of Scoundrels, a history of the Rocky Mountain fur trade. An early Internet pioneer, he also created a remarkable body of literature that exists now only in cyberspace.