ISBN #: 978-0143125594
Page Count: 272
Copyright: October 28, 2014
Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint Edition
(Taken from Amazon)
Ron Carlson has always been a critics’ favorite, but Return to Oakpine shows the acclaimed writer at his finest. In this tender and nostalgic portrait of western American life, Carlson tells the story of four middle-aged friends who once played in a band while growing up together in small-town Wyoming. One of them, Jimmy Brand, left for New York City and became an admired novelist. Thirty years later in 1999, he’s returned to die. Craig Ralston and Frank Gunderson never left Oakpine; Mason Kirby, a Denver lawyer, is back on family business. Jimmy’s arrival sends the other men’s dreams and expectations, realized and deferred, whirling to the surface. And now that they are reunited, getting the band back together might be the most essential thing they ever do.
This is definitely a serious novel. The topics covered inside are weighty and substantial. For example, Jimmy's come back to town dying of AIDS, Larry's graduating high school and feels the weight of adulthood in his actions and decisions, and Marci has been married so long that a work-related flirtation is now on the verge of becoming something more. While these examples give a good representation of what you'll encounter while reading Return to Oakpine, they're not all that's written in these pages.
Jimmy's return home is sad, but it's made even more so by the fact that his father cannot stand to look at him or his novels. Edgar, Jimmy's dad, is nursing a 30-year hurt that he has yet to get over. Will Jimmy being home help Edgar face that hurt? Can they reunite and move past this obstacle in their relationship before Jimmy's impending death?
Marci works at a museum in town. She's married to the local hardware owner and finds herself a little restless. She allows her boss certain liberties at the office, teasing him and keeping him hanging. Eventually, he tells her he wants more and asks her to go away with him on a business trip assuring her they'd have separate hotel rooms. Marci's torn between the duties and familiarities of her marriage and the new exciting feelings with her boss. She even thinks herself falling in love. Will she tear apart her marriage to try something new?
If I can say anything about this novel it's that the context speaks to each one of us. I can understand Marci's position whereas you may relate to Jimmy, Craig, Mason, Frank, Kathleen, Sonny, or any of the other characters in Oakpine. This novel is real and it cuts through to the heart of the matter speaking about things people try to keep hidden and overlook. The only thing I had somewhat of an issue with is the way the characters spoke sometimes, but I'm thinking that's more of a regional dialect than anything to do with the author's writing. I understood and appreciated the severity of this novel. If you enjoy more serious literary works, then you need to pick this one up.
*A paperback copy of this novel was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
For this giveaway, Penguin Books is graciously giving away paperback copies of all three of Ron Carlson's novels. This giveaway will be open until 11/12. The winner needs to be a US or Canadian resident and will be randomly chosen on 11/13. The winner will have 48 hours to respond with their mailing address (no PO Boxes, please). If the winner does not respond within 48 hours, another winner will be chosen.