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West of Here [Kindle Edition]

Jonathan Evison
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (104 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.

Editorial Reviews Review

Amazon Best Books of the Month, February 2011: Jonathan Evison opens his electrifying epic, West of Here, at the Elwha River dam, where over a hundred years since settlers of the fictional town of Port Bonita tamed the river, their descendants gather in anticipation of the dam's blasting, and a new era of restoration. Across the next five hundred pages, Evison's story moves between 2006 and the town's earliest days at the close of the 19th century, overlaying stories of the people who passed through or dug in at Port Bonita, which swelled from settlement to town on the ragged shoreline of Washington State's Strait of Juan de Fuca. The past is populated by intrepid folk--an exploration party penetrating the Olympic Mountain range in the depths of winter, Klallam natives sickened by homeland eviction and whiskey, a young feminist at odds with motherhood, a prostitute doing covert battle with her whorehouse's owner, and an idealistic entrepreneur, blasting the river canyon into submission. In 2006, we meet their softer progeny--an ex-con who flees into the mountains with a stash of Snickers, the lonely parole officer determined to find him, a fish processing plant worker with a Bigfoot fixation, a native woman who rethinks her whole life when her son has a psychic break, and more memorable characters haunted by the past, by their unlived lives, by themselves. Though its themes are weighty, West of Here never bogs down--irreverent humor, lustrous prose, and unexpected moments animate a tale as vast as the land it inhabits. --Mari Malcolm

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. 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.)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Product Details

  • File Size: 1343 KB
  • Print Length: 497 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 1565129520
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books; Reprint edition (January 31, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B004W486CO
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #250,457 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
333 of 345 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A lovingly told epic of the Pacific Northwest. January 18, 2011
I was lucky enough to score an ARC of Jonathan Evison's West of Here and I have to admit that it surprised me. I knew the man could write, his first novel All About Lulu was a lovely coming of age story told with a unique voice that I liked a lot. But Lulu in no way prepared me for the staggering scope of West of Here.

Set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, Washington, the book follows two timelines. The first timeline begins in 1889 and focuses on Port Bonita's founding and the damming of the Elwha River which gave the town its identity and life. This timeline is filled with men and women of vision and purpose, the world wide open to them if only they can make the right decisions. The second timeline is in the modern year 2006 and follows the descendants of those original founders. But for them, Port Bonita is no longer thriving, the dam no longer their salvation but their downfall. These men and women would like to have the same sense of purpose their ancestors did, but first they must somehow reconcile their past with their future. It might be time for Port Bonita and its inhabitants to make a change.

Jonathan Evison writes colorfully with a lot of humor and genuine affection for his many characters - not one written with anything less than absolute vibrancy and depth. The Washington wilderness itself is a character and his descriptions of it are so effortless and beautiful, you trust that he KNOWS this landscape. He makes you feel it.

The story itself is propulsive.
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118 of 126 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A spectacular read January 18, 2011
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This book is a sweeping epic, it's as if Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion and Eugenides' Middlesex had a love child. While reading you can actually feel the Olympic Peninsula all around you just as you could feel Oregon's coastal forests in Kesey's great novel.

West of Here is like a freight train, it starts off at a steady pace allowing you to become familiar with its broad cast of characters. The novel continues to building speed and you realize that this freight train's brakes have failed; there is no stopping until you go crashing through to the end.

Evison has definitely outdone himself with his second book. All About Lulu was an excellent debut, but in comparing it to West of Here you can see just how much Evison has matured, and how much he is capable of.

One final question: Is it too early to get a copy of Evison's third book?
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97 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sweeping story, carefully written January 19, 2011
What I love best about West of Here is the contrast between the small stories and the huge ones, and how carefully wrought they are as we, the reader, are breathlessly pulled in and out, from mountain trail to bedroom, from comic book to factory. Evison's tale dives into the hearts of his characters and steps back to the wilderness of the west coast so that, by the end of the book, you feel you have intimate knowledge of both.

I have often caught myself saying that when you leave a place, it's not the place you miss but the people you knew there. In West of Here, as you close the book you will miss both, and want more.

To manage all of the moving parts of a story this big, Evison's skill as a writer is among the best of contemporary American writers.

Order it today. You won't be disappointed.
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24 of 24 people found the following review helpful
West of Here is a big book! It encompasses actions and characters in two eras - the present day and the 1890s. It is set in the fictional town of Port Bonita on the Olympic Peninsula in Washington State. The theme centers on the hope and promise of the pioneering spirit and the present day reality of those efforts. Not the cheeriest of outcomes! The pioneers dam the river to bring electricity to the town; their descendents decide to remove the dam in hopes of replenishing the depleted fish populations of the river. In moving between the two eras and showing the actions of the pioneers the author draws a compelling cause and effect on the environment. (Spoilers ahead)
There are a myriad of characters in this story, almost too many for me to keep up with. The pioneers are introduced in vignettes that deal with significant issues like emerging feminism, the white man's relations with the native populations, the exploration of the Olympic peninsula, and the entrepreneurial spirit of the old west; the current day characters are much more internally focused. These characters - a factory worker trying to relive his high school ball playing glory days, a single mother struggling with a mentally ill son, a lesbian dealing with an unexpected pregnancy and an ex-con and his lonely parole officer wandering through the wilderness - struggle in the same place to be positive in the face of a landscape that is used up. The contrast between the settlement of the town and the current day could hardly be starker. The pioneers were able to form a community and act for the perceived good of it; the current day characters are much more adrift in their purpose and longing for that connection.
This is not a plot driven novel; it is more a character based story with a strong sense of place.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
1.0 out of 5 stars Paradise lost
West of here unfortunately covers its many literary flaws by resorting to magic. An otherwise majestic story of the life of a frontier town from 1880 to present is scarred and... Read more
Published 2 months ago by Mike Whitman
5.0 out of 5 stars Calling Olympic Peninsula...I'll be there soon!
So now I want to see the Pacific Northwest and it feels a bit like home. I'm not sure Jonathan Evison thought about how he would now motivate legions of people to see and trample... Read more
Published 5 months ago by C. P. Lincoln
3.0 out of 5 stars I don't recall . . .
I read this book, but I can't remember much about it at all. But I don't remember not liking it, so I surmise that it was readable, just not memorable. Read more
Published 6 months ago by Bernie Butt
5.0 out of 5 stars Fun read
I loved WEST OF HERE as I enjoyed the historical perspective versus current times. Evison's description of the area and his characters is colorful, detailed, and fun. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Gwynn Rogers
1.0 out of 5 stars Does not do history justice
I found this book to be a major disappointment. The plot was thin, the characters shallow, and the book did nothing to illuminate the richness of the history of Northwest Native... Read more
Published 12 months ago by always shopping
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it
A delightful novel with a local Pacific Northwest theme has many characters, sort of an ensemble cast, with two related story lines, over a hundred years apart, with many of the... Read more
Published 13 months ago by Michael P. McCullough
2.0 out of 5 stars Very ambitious book, but disappointing
When I finished reading this book, I turned (as I often do when my assessment of a book is significantly lower than the ratings which helped persuade me to read it) to Amazon... Read more
Published 14 months ago by JMoritz
1.0 out of 5 stars No like!
Hate?? No I do not hate it, but I do not like it eather, it is not my kind of book/story.
Published 14 months ago by stok
5.0 out of 5 stars Two Books in One, both of them terrific
Jonathan Evison's WEST OF HERE is two books in one: a period western and a contemporary novel that evokes both Larry McMurtry and John Irving with colorful characters, amiable... Read more
Published 17 months ago by Lee Goldberg
1.0 out of 5 stars This Is a Big Failure for Many Reasons
I have grown to like Jonathan Evison novels. But this one is so annoying. The characters on the whole are completely unbelievable even though I found myself chuckling often. Read more
Published 18 months ago by C. E. Selby
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More About the Author

Jonathan Evison is the author of the critically acclaimed novels All About Lulu, and West of Here. He was the recipient of a 2009 Christopher Isherwood Fellowship. He lives on an island in western Washington. He likes rabbits.

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