From Publishers Weekly
The publisher of a Fairbanks, Alaska, weekly newspaper finds himself tested by matters of love and money in Cole's resolute first novel. Gus Traynor has run the Mercury
for 15 years, aided by his fiery sister, Noreen, but these days costs are up and ad sales are down. The paper's difficulties come at a bad time for Gus, a likable and sometimes reluctant gadfly who, after many years of bachelorhood, finds a new reason to fight for his paper's longevity: part-time journalist Gayle Kenneally, a single mother from the native village of Allakeket whose thoughtful, unhurried self-possession capture Gus's attention and ultimately his heart. In Gus, Cole has crafted a sympathetic, winning everyman with a believable mix of pragmatic and contemplative impulses. Cole's attention to an ongoing litany of town issues, on the other hand—the debate over a controversial book; a logging bill—never come alive, but read instead as a lackluster strategy to ratchet up tension. The novel's characters, and their tentative, fully felt interactions in the service of building friendships and love—especially Gus's nervous, endearing, faltering attempts to get closer to Gayle—are at the story's heart, and propel it forward with quiet force. (Jan.)
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Not many first novels win prizes, but this one won the 2004 Bellwether Prize for Fiction, founded by Barbara Kingsolver. The novel takes place in Fairbanks, Alaska, and centers around Gus Traynor, editor of the Mercury,
a small weekly newspaper. When Gus'idealism goes against big business and "the forces of progress," the paper begins to lose its revenue. At the same time he is struggling to save his paper, Gus realizes that he may be falling in love with Gayle, an Athabascan woman interning at the Mercury
. As he becomes more involved in her life, his eyes are opened to a completely different side of the community. In a surprising and wonderful climax, Gus makes a decision that could cause him to lose everything or gain it. Cole's style is subtle but engrossing. She paints the background of her story vividly and populates it with quirky but likable characters. The reader hardly notices that she is making a very strong statement about preserving the land and its people. It is quite a debut. Elizabeth DickieCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved