Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Freebie: West of Here by Jonathan Evison

Congratulations to Libby Kessman, winner of last week's Friday Freebie: Quiet Americans by Erika Dreifus.

This week's book giveaway is the novel West of Here by Jonathan Evison.  I'll have a full and proper review published at The Los Angeles Review of Books sometime in the distant, hazy future; but for now, I can tell you that I was mighty impressed by this multi-generation epic set in the Pacific Northwest.  What at first glance may look like a novel whose eyes are bigger than its stomach eventually pans out to be an engaging and very smart story that stays with you long after you've closed it for the last time.  It clings to you like the musk of salmon guts from the packing line at High Tide Seafood, one of the book's characters might say.

Juggling dual story lines set in 1890 and 2006 in a fictional town on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, Evison (author of All About Lulu and one of the four guys behind the book blog 3 Guys 1 Book) populates West of Here with so many characters, he makes Cecil B. DeMille look like a rank amateur.  He's got ambition and he's got courage and I admire a writer who takes these kind of risks.  I won't go into the book's many plot threads, but here's a paragraph from the flap copy:
Evison has written a grand and playful odyssey, a multilayered saga of destiny and greed, adventure and passion. Stretching from the ragged mudflats of a belching and bawdy frontier to the rusting remains of strip-mall cornucopia, West of Here chronicles the life of one small town, turning America's history into myth, and myth into a nation's shared experience.
And for a taste of what the book has to offer, here are a couple of paragraphs describing the arrival of one of Port Bonita's earliest citizens:
       On the afternoon of December 14, in the year of our Lord 1889, the good steamer George E. Starr chugged around Ediz Hook in a driving squall, her bowels belching hemlock and cedar, as she pulled into ragged Port Bonita. When she landed at Morse Dock, nobody clamored to greet her. Only a few tatters of wet silk bunting were left to mark the occasion when young Ethan Thornburgh strode off the George E. Starr onto an empty dock, clutching a lone leather suitcase, with the wind at his back and his silver-eyed gaze leveled straight at the future. He might have looked like a dandy to the casual observer, a young man of some distinction, all buttoned up in a brown suit with tails, freshly coifed, smelling of camphor and spices, his cleft chin clean-shaven, a waxed mustache mantling his lip like two seahorses kissing. But upon closer inspection, visible through the shifting mothholes in his wool trouser, a trained eye might have observed the shoe polish daubed on his underwear or the fear in his silver-eyed gaze. One might even have glimpsed the yellow blue remnants of a shiner beneath his right eye.
       Ethan stood tall and lean on the dock, flattening his lapel, as he gathered his bearings. This did not take long. The town ran only one direction. Indeed, it had nowhere else to go, hemmed in as it was by heavy timber and steep inclines. There was only Front Street, a ragtag row of structures running east to west in an arrangement that suggested jetsam spewed on the shoreline.
If you'd like to stake your claim for a copy of West of Here, all you have to do is answer this question:

According to the timeline on the book's website*, what major event happened in November 2002? (click the "View Timeline" tab to find the answer)

Email your answer to

Put FRIDAY FREEBIE in the e-mail subject line.  One entry per person, please.  Please e-mail me the answer, rather than posting it in the comments section.  Despite its name, the Friday Freebie runs all week long and remains open to entries until the contest closes at midnight on Feb. 24--at which time I'll draw the winning name.  I'll announce the lucky reader on Feb. 25.

Update:  Over at his A Mind Adrift in the West blog, Craig Lancaster is giving away a signed copy of West of Here.  His giveaway ends on Feb. 23. Until then, you can double your chances to win Evison's novel by visiting Craig's blog HERE.

*The publisher, Algonquin Books, has really pulled out all the stops to create a detailed, interactive website to bring the fictional town to life.


  1. Great contest. To bad my e-mail,does not support that type of e-mail. Keep up the good work.

  2. I was lucky enough to score an advanced copy of this book and I devoured it. The rich scenery, the vivid unraveling of the past that informed the present day, and the hard-working characters trying to make their way in their time made it a book that I couldn't stop thinking about long after I was done with it.