The American West has often been mythologized as a place where people can come to re-invent themselves and blaze new trails. In his sprawling, compelling new novel, Jonathan Evison explores how that mythology collides with the present.
Evison’s narrative is set partly in 1889-90, in the frontier Olympic Peninsula town of Port Bonita on the eve of Washington’s statehood. There, several individuals have come with bold plans for changing their own lives and changing the world: an unwed, pregnant woman with an independent streak; a veteran explorer determined to conquer the region’s unknown wilderness; a dreamer with a vision for turning the powerful Elwha River into energy. But in 2006, several Port Bonita residents have a different perspective on the opportunity for radical change. They’re stuck in place, seeing themselves as prisoners of their own history, and sometimes the history of the place itself.