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Mink River Paperback – October 1, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Community is the beating heart of this fresh, memorable debut with an omniscient narrator and dozens of characters living in Neawanaka, a small coastal Oregon town. Daniel Cooney, a 12-year-old who wears his hair in three different-colored braids, has a terrible bike accident in the woods and is rescued by a bear. Daniel's grandfather, Worried Man, is able to sense others' pain even from a distance and goes on a dangerous mountain mission to track down the source of time with his dear friend, Cedar. Other key stories involve a young police officer whose life is threatened, a doctor who smokes one cigarette for each apostle per day, a lusty teenage couple who work at a shingle factory, and a crow who can speak English. The fantastical blends with the natural elements in this original, postmodern, shimmering tapestry of smalltown life that profits from the oral traditions of the town's population of Native Americans and Irish immigrants. Those intrigued by the cultural heritage of the Pacific Northwest will treasure every lyrical sentence.
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"If my high-hearted friend Brian Doyle is trying to avoid the nickname 'Paddy,' his wondrous Oregon Coast novel is the wrong feckin' way to go about it. In its sights, settings, insinuations, flora and fauna, his tale is quintessential North Coast, but in its sensibility and lilt this story is as Irish as tin whistles--and the pairing is an unprecedented delight. This thing reads like an Uilleann pipe tour de force by a Sligo County maestro cast up on the shores of County Tillamook. The hauntings and shadows, shards of dark and bright, usurpations by wonder, lust, blarney, yearning, are coast-mythic in flavor but entirely bardic at heart. Doyle's sleights of hand, word, and reality burr up off the page the way bits of heather burr out of a handmade Irish sweater yet the same sweater is stained indigenous orange by a thousand Netarts Bay salmonberries. I've read no Northwest novel remotely like it and enjoyed few novels more. Of an Irishman's Oregon I am nothing but glad to have wandered, Mink River sings and sings." --David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and The River Why

"Absolutely in the tradition of Northwest literature, richly imagined, distinctive, beautiful ... I was pulled along steadily, my heart raced, I held my breath..." --Molly Gloss, author of The Hearts of Horses and The Jump-Off Creek

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Oregon State University Press; 1St Edition edition (October 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0870715852
  • ISBN-13: 978-0870715853
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.9 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (238 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,921 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Brian Doyle (born in New York in 1956) is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, in Oregon. He is the author of thirteen books, among them the novels Mink River (big) and Cat's Foot (little; a friend of mine says it is a 'novella' but that sounds like a disease or a sandwich spread), the story collection Bin Laden's Bald Spot, the nonfiction books The Grail and The Wet Engine, and many books of essays and poems. His Huge Whopping Headlong Sea Novel THE PLOVER will be published in April 2014 by St. Martin's Press/Thomas Dunne Books, bless their mad hearts. Brian James Patrick Doyle of New Yawk is cheerfully NOT the great Canadian novelist Brian Doyle, nor the astrophysicist Brian Doyle, nor the former Yankee baseball player Brian Doyle, nor even the terrific actor Brian Doyle-Murray. He is, let's say, the ambling shambling Oregon writer Brian Doyle, and happy to be so.

Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 69 people found the following review helpful By Paul Myers on October 6, 2010
Format: Paperback
Mink River is salty, sweaty, and sweet. It is jolting, lyrical and challenging. Our creature-ness is on display with no apologies. The characters' stories bring the reader tender and mystical moments along with the most pained and dissociated experiences that happen to any of us from town to town--from Dublin to Neawanaka. Darkness and light. Truth and deceit. Life and death.

The writer, Brian Doyle, weaves myth and fact, love and hate, Native American and Irish cultures, poetry and prose all along the Spruce trees, salmonberries, Cedars and blackberry brambles of Mink River's shore. The book reminds one of Joyce's Dubliners, of Dillard's Tinker Creek, or Lopez's Giving Birth to Thunder, of Duncan's River Why, but these hints and braidings bring the reader something that is new and refreshing and creative, and very Brian Doyle. To Doyle, we ARE stories. The heart's spark plug resides in stories. And that belief can be felt in the readers pulsing hands as Mink River's characters come to life.

We fly as the crow flies, from household to household to see person after person in their most intimate, vulnerable and raw moments. Doyle is a master painter with his words. The images will climb into your heart and bones and refuse to leave. And after the reader get's oriented in the Mink River microcosm, and becomes synchronized with the rhythms and pacing of the town and its people, the book becomes a page turner as you enter the characters' lives and you cry for them and cheer for them and hate them and ache in your bones for them.

Life as it is: "No sugar, please, just black--Oregon Coffee." And in Mink River, in this mix of sage and confused and passionate characters of Neawanaka we find ourselves, all bones and sinew and made of stories.
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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By David Pollard on February 11, 2011
Format: Paperback
Brian Doyle's Mink River is simply the best novel I have read in a decade. It is brilliantly and painstakingly crafted. It tells a wonderful and heart-warming story. It never manipulates. Its prose is pure poetry: Every word counts. Its characters are so contemporary and complex and familiar that they spring to life. And its message -- about cultural transition driven by necessity, about the importance of community and of place and of resilience and of love -- is essential and delivered with a power and richness that no non-fictional account could hope to match.

This is Dark Mountain-weight writing at its best. The kind of writing I now aspire to and intend to write, though mine will be poetry and song and film and vignette instead of book-length prose. I don't have Doyle's stamina. I only hope I can one day match his talent. Although Doyle has published ten books (most of them essays; he makes his living as an editor), this is his first published novel.

Both the style and ambition of Mink River are reminiscent of James Joyce's Ulysses. The tale is one of an entire community, an entire ecosystem of rich human and non-human interaction, told from a bird's-eye view, both when the bird (a crow named Moses) soars above and when he peers at the peculiar residents of Mink River up close and curious. In my blog I have tried to paint a picture of the chasm we are now accelerating towards (though our schools and politicians and media dare not admit to it, since it is too complex, too difficult to broach, to hopeless to consider).
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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Patricia Hester on January 2, 2011
Format: Paperback
I absolutely loved this book. I expected to saunter through it a bit at a time between festivities and guests during the holidays. Once I began reading, minutes and hours passed, the telephone took messages, emails were ignored, and the doorbell...well, what doorbell? The characters in Mink River are amazing, the connections between them are fine and tight,their dialogue is true to both the native american culture and the Irish, and the environs of their Oregon Coast town become more real with every passing shower.

To show the thought and cultural processes of his characters, the author has broken most of the rules of punctuation and grammar. He meanders down pathways, peeks into doorways, and often becomes a voyeur, yet is neither intrusive nor visible. This work is timeless, filled with mysticism, and surprisingly believable despite many supernatural events. An excellent story. A must read.
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46 of 54 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Showell on May 27, 2012
Format: Paperback
It's not that I didn't like Brian Doyle's Mink River as a novel of place and time and characters and stories connected by nature and nurture on the Oregon coast where thimbleberries and blackberries and salmonberries and huckleberries peek out and soak in the gentle misting rain and sun and more rain and more sun until they're as ripe as a Tillamook cheese resting in a farmhouse that's stood one hundred years and will take another hundred to decay slowly into a pile of boards hewn from the old-growth forests that used to blanket the coast range like a sleeping bag wrapping around you on the coldest night in twenty years. That's not it. It's that the book strains to convince the reader, as it has already convinced the author, that THIS IS GREAT LITERATURE! Doyle is so self-consciously writing to the literary gods that he fails to avoid being far too precious, as with his continual references to "the man with n days left to live" rather than just giving him a name, and tedious, as when he decides to treat the reader to an inventory of camping gear that runs on for 52 items. Remember, YOU ARE READING PROSE/POETRY CONTAINING THOUGHTS BOTH LARGE AND DEEP-ish! And in Gaelic, too!

The characters are all likeable enough, although many don't have a whole lot to do and, although the action lags for a good long time, the dramatic climax is genuinely exciting and the philosophical climax gives the reader something to chew on. I'd recommend the book, but only if you have a high tolerance for literary pretension.
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