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The Living by Annie Dillard
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's review
Mar 15, 09

bookshelves: read-in-2009
Read in March, 2009

This is a fascinating epic novel, a big book that paints in broad strokes. The author gallops along in her descriptions of events and people; she skips entire years; she describes people as one would describe dolls (the shapes of their heads and facial features). She describes many deaths, but the peculiarities and complications of life most fascinate her. Can one woman survive when just about everyone in her family dies in domestic tragedy? Can one man -- however twisted -- own another person's life without actually committing murder? This is an unusual and magnificent novel. The author describes the delicate balance of the white folks clinging to the edge of a heavily-wooded continent, hoping for solvent banks and railroad terminus. She describes the tragedy of the Chinese, brought in to do some heavy work and then deported as quickly as possible. And she describes the inter-tribal skirmishes between the American Indian tribes, and how it affects or doesn't affect their interactions with the white settlers. She provides descriptions of the tenacious dealings between the East Coast and West, and how the economic woes of the East (which seem eerily similar to our present day troubles) impact those in the West. Those of us who live up here in the Pacific Northwest glean some images of early Seattle and Bellingham. I've applied all of these words and I still cannot adequately describe this book.
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