FICTION

Deep River

Atlantic Monthly. Jul. 2019. 820p. ISBN 9780802125385. $28; ebk. ISBN 9780802146199. F
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Marlantes's debut, Matterhorn: A Novel of the Vietnam War, a story heavily influenced by the author's experience as a marine, received critical praise for its unblinking portrayal of innocence, patriotism, and violence. Here, Marlantes pushes deep into his family's past to create a generational tale about Finnish immigrants, American capitalism, and forgotten heroes. Inspired by the 19th-century epic poem The Kalevala and Marlantes's own family history, the narrative is set in 1900s America. Fleeing from Finland to Washington State, the Koski siblings find work in the nascent logging industry of the Pacific Northwest. Youngest daughter Aino watches her brothers and colleagues lose their limbs, health, and wages as the need for timber outpaces a concern for human capital. Swept up in the energy of the emerging labor union movement, Aino matures into a fiery advocate for organized labor and the dignity of the human spirit. However, an egalitarian ideology pits her against America's cresting wave of industrialization and its consolidation of power and wealth. Though the characters feel real, this angle can make them seem like mouthpieces for political movements at times.
VERDICT An admirable work, this monomyth is dense (maybe sometimes too dense) with Marlantes's gift for lyricism and evocative language. [See Prepub Alert, 1/14/19.]

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