This book took me quite a while to get into, but once I did, I liked it a lot.
know how George R.R. Martin changes narrative voices between chapters?
Well, this book does that, but within paragraphs. In the first hundred
pages, there were a few paragraphs that had, internally, four different
perspectives. And I thought, what have I gotten myself into? Is this
pretentious? Is it precious?
And more to the point, can I put up with this for 700 pages?
I stuck it out, and once I got into the rhythm of the book, it really
worked for me. (It also helped that paragraphs rarely had four
narrators. Two, however, was very common. But sometimes it switched
between narrators and first- and third-person.)
This is a book for the patient.
my patience was rewarded, once I got used to the style, and once I
slowed down enough to read this book at its own pace, which it
definitely demands. And it frequently reads like it was written while on
drugs of one sort or another.
So much for the style, what about the story?
Now that, that was good. (And a lot better than One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest,
which I was not that fond of.) It's an almost operatic tragedy, set
amongst the hardest-living, toughest sumbitches out there. It's about
rugged individualism, but not in a simple way. It's about community, but
not in an easy way. The rugged individuals are often rugged because
they've been given no choice, from upbringing and exclusion. Those in
the community often prey on others. The rugged individuals have a pretty
tight-knit and roughly affectionate community of their own going.
it's a story of revenge. Younger son Leland comes home to an Oregon
logging community locked in a bitter strike. He comes back to topple his
big brother off the pedestal he himself put Hank on. And does it using
the powers of weakness he's been honing all his life. Big brother Hank
never particularly wanted to be this strong, but feels like he's been
forced into it.
Leland gave me the most trouble of all the
characters in the book. He's an asshole. He constantly assumes malicious
intent on the part of his big brother when none exists. He creates his
own little drama going on within in the family which no one else can
perceive. And because of the evil den of hate and malice he sees going
on around him, he sets out to make it true.
With tragic results.
can't recommend this book to everyone. You have to have a high
tolerance for ambiguity, for a non-linear writing style, for a story
that flows like the river it takes place beside.
But if this is you, then I think you might enjoy this book too.