A short literary break from the hurly-burly, high-season fishing, farming, foraging gig:
I have not been to Cuba, but I’ve spent enough time in tropical countries to know the ominous feeling that lurks below the surface of vibrant colors and sunshine. A feeling of something dark, an undercurrent you can’t quite articulate, a feeling that things might happen beyond your control. This contrast between tropical light and dark permeates Julie Trimingham’s debut novel, Mockingbird, in such a beautiful way, it feels exactly like the real thing: never quite said, but always there.
This is a book of gorgeous language, so rich and self-assured I found myself re-reading sentences just for their music. How can anyone’s first novel have this much confident, fully-formed talent on display? The story itself is a tale of a woman–a young, white, North American actress–who finds a seemingly abandoned child in Cuba. In her well-meaning efforts to care for the child and her visions of giving it “a better life,” we see her moral ambiguity, and possibly a kind of cultural arrogance.
As she bonds with the child, she leaves a trail of wreckage in her wake. But what’s more interesting, at least to me, is what we come to understand about the narrator through her first-person subjectivity. In the tradition of Huck Finn, these are truths the narrator cannot see in herself. Mockingbird is a beautiful book, and for me, an absorbing, exotic escape from our crazy-busy season here in the Pacific Northwest. I highly recommend it.
Perhaps off the subjects of foraging, food and family…but I think this still fits the blog, at least from a literary standpoint. Instead of just trying to publicize my own book and events, I thought I’d try to talk about other authors’ books from time to time. So here goes…
Remember that old tv series Northern Exposure? Well, imagine if an entire season was written by James Joyce, and instead of a tv show, it was a novel. Okay, maybe a stretch there, but that’s what I thought as I read Brian Doyle’s Mink River. An unusual and beautiful mix of small-town Northwest–quirky characters and all–written with a decidedly Irish sensibility and style. Oh, and toss in a dash of magic realism to round it all out. (note: I’m not usually a big fan of magic realism, but it works for me here.)
Beyond the wise and philosophical talking crow and the two-man Public Works Department that feels its duty goes way beyond fixing roads and maintaining water lines to actually helping their fellow citizens on an emotional level, this book is about the healing power of community and the natural world. To read it is to be fully absorbed into the woods and waters of the Pacific Northwest and the town of Neawanaka, and to know the people who live there as if they were close personal friends. This is a book to savor, and a story that will stay with you for a long time.
In the name of shameless self promotion, here’s a pdf of the Orion review. Some very kind and humbling words, and the reviewer writes beautifully. But then, I wouldn’t expect anything less from this publication. Not sure if it will show up readable, but I’m going to give it a shot. Just click on the underlined “image” above. Thanks for your patience. Hope you are well.
What an honor to have Closer to the Ground reviewed in one of my favorite magazines, Orion. If you aren’t already familiar with it, Orion features some of the most spectacular photography and writing out there, with no advertising. I generally read it cover to cover as soon as I have my hands on an issue.
The review is in the current, March/April issue, which is out now. They have yet to post any current book reviews online, but if you want to find out more about the mag, click HERE. When the review is posted, I will try to remember to put it up here. But in the mean time, if you have a chance, pick up Orion in hard copy and enjoy the read. I high highly recommend it.
I realize this might get a little more play if I replaced the word “book” with “beer,” but I think it’s worth mentioning anyway. The “Exploring Portland’s Natural Areas” blog recently posted a review of Closer to the Ground, and to sweeten the pot, they’re giving away a free copy of the book.
All you have to do is click HERE and comment on the post. The winner will be selected at random this coming Sunday, December 23rd. Good luck!