Mink River

Oregon State Univ. Oct. 2010. c.320p. ISBN 9780870715853. pap. $18.95. F
Stories that sing in many voices, "braided and woven…leading one to another," shape Doyle's debut novel. Worried Man and Cedar are the entire Department of Public Works for Neawanaka, a small Oregon coastal town at the mouth of the Mink River. Beyond fixing potholes, they make the Oral History Project their mission. Worried Man tapes Native American stories from his Salish ancestors for Daniel, his 12-year-old grandson. Owen Cooney, Daniel's father, runs the Auto & Other Repair and has his own stories about his Irish ancestors, as do the O Donnells, led by fiery Red Hugh, eking out a living as a farmer. Other stories flow from Daniel's mother, No Horses, a sculptress who cannot find wood with the right spirit; the town doctor, who offers solace to broken bodies; and Michael, the opera-loving cop who feels burdened by what he sees every day.
VERDICT Award-winning essayist Doyle writes with an inventive and seductive style that echoes that of ancient storytellers. This lyrical mix of natural history, poetry, and Salish and Celtic lore offers crime, heartaches, celebrations, healing, and death. Readers who appreciate modern classics like Sherwood Anderson's Winesburg, Ohio or William Faulkner's As I Lay Dying will find much to savor here. Enthusiastically recommended.

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