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Like Dylan Thomas' Under Milk Wood and Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio, Brian Doyle's stunning fiction debut brings a town to life through the jumbled lives and braided stories of its people.
In a small fictional town on the Oregon coast there are love affairs and almost-love-affairs, mystery and hilarity, bears and tears, brawls and boats, a garrulous logger and a silent doctor, rain and pain, Irish immigrants and Salish stories, mud and laughter. There's a Department of Public Works that gives haircuts and counts insects, a policeman addicted to Puccini, a philosophizing crow, beer and berries. An expedition is mounted, a crime committed, and there's an unbelievably huge picnic on the football field. Babies are born. A car is cut in half with a saw. A river confesses what it's thinking. . .
It's the tale of a town, written in a distinct and lyrical voice, and readers will close the book more than a little sad to leave the village of Neawanaka, on the wet coast of Oregon, beneath the hills that used to boast the biggest trees in the history of the world.
salmon and humming sets three plates on the table in the kitchen in case Cedar pops in for dinner. She steps out on the porch to look for Worried Man but she is not worried—he is certainly finishing his walk and will be striding up the hill in a moment. Stares at the first stars, the last swifts chittering and swooping overhead, the first bats. Dreams. Sips wine. Thinks of Daniel’s hair. Daniel’s questions. Billy skinny as a stick. Tall. He stepped back politely. I liked that. His grave amused
considers. Sunlight hits the tips of the trees. She brushes her hair what’s left of it what was I thinking stupid me. Listens: robins, a thrush, a woodpecker, an ouzel, the silver plink plink of a hammer on metal. Stretches. Swings her bag to her shoulder, walks through the trees, and there in an opening in the woods through a bright yellow window in the warming morning she sees Owen Cooney hammering away at something in his shop. He’s shirtless and sweating and looks like a painting of the
again, says Daniel. The doctor says you will walk again and he never lies. He says you’ll be running quick as a cat. Have you known him a long time? Long enough to trust him with my life. What’s left of it. Are you going to die soon? In about two weeks. Give or take a day. I’m very sorry. Thank you. I’ll say prayers. Thank you. Daniel doesn’t know what else to say and he is suddenly exhausted again and the man who sells boxes sees Daniel’s eyes sag and he says, listen, son, you close
shop, and Declan and Nicholas are trying to remember the fight song from their high school, of which no one can remember more than the first two lines, and Worried Man is humming a war song his grandfather taught him from the time the People went to war with those crazy Cheamhills, and Maple Head is teaching her class a song in the key of C as they study harmony and melody, and Daniel and Kristi and the doctor and the man with seven days to live are singing a song about the sea that the doctor
hands, but that time has well passed and even the memory of it is fading faster than the kids of today can spit on its coffin as it trundles by pulled by draft horses of the kind that were once endemic and necessary in these very woods. Cedar grins and winces as he remembers what George Christie did to the beautiful cedar and spruce cabin he had built with his own hands to house his beloved logging museum. He chopped it down, alone, working every day from dawn to suppertime, and then he sawed