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Personal survey of Pacific Northwest
on November 21, 2000
This is not a history of the Pacific Northwest, nor even a comprehensive contemporary profile of this region. It is one man's often very personal view of his home, the place where he grew up, and the political, social and economic issues that underlie everyday life there. Egan makes no attempt at cold objectivity; he is writing about something he loves, and this comes through in the text. He also makes abundantly clear what he doesn't like. Thus, this book is controversial and thought-provoking. Although "The Good Rain" is ostensibly about the Pacific Northwest, an area that at its widest extent includes Washington, Oregon, most of British Columbia in Canada and even the northern parts of California, Egan focuses mostly on parts of Washington, which is good, because this is what he knows best (even though the chapter on the Siskiyou forests of Oregon is very well written and informative). The book is well organized, and Egan selected the main topics for his chapters well; they cover the principal socio-economic and political concerns of the region: timber and loggers, salmon, fruit-growing, urban development, the local Native Americans, the Columbia River, etc. He also did a good deal of research on the region's history upon settlement (or conquest) by the Americans and the British, and his writing makes these often dry facts come to life. Probably the main theme of Egan's argument here is that as the Pacific Northwest makes its transition into a vital part of the Pacific Rim, it needs to discard the central resource extraction element of its economy which marked its early years of development (after the Indians were pushed aside). The author here makes no secret of his distaste for the rapacious timber industry (even though he is not anti-logger or opposed to sustainable use of forests) and the Army Corps of Engineers (which is still intent on damming up the last untouched parts of the Columbia and destroying the remaining significant salmon runs). Although it was written ten years ago, "The Good Rain" has lost none of its freshness and relevance. Perhaps my only criticisms would be a) Egan often omitted citing dates even when dealing with specific events (so that there is reference to e.g. something taking place "in Seattle tonight") and b) he relies too much and sometimes depends excessively on a book by Theodore Winthrop, a New Englander who traveled through the region in 1853. Nevertheless, this book is well worth reading.