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The Oregon Experiment

3.08  ·  Rating details ·  145 ratings  ·  38 reviews
East Coast transplants to small-town Oregon, Naomi and Scanlon Pratt are at the threshold of a new life. Scanlon has a position at the local university—teaching mass movements and domestic radicalism—and Naomi, a fragrance designer whose sense of smell has inexplicably vanished, is pregnant with their first child.

For Scanlon, all of this is ideal, from impending fatherhood
Hardcover, 352 pages
Published June 14th 2011 by Knopf (first published January 1st 2011)
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Margaret Killjoy
Feb 10, 2014 rated it liked it
I enjoyed reading it, and it gave me plenty to think about.

I wrote a longer review of this analyzing the way the author represented (and misrepresented) anarchism here:
Jan 09, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is a great novel that takes place in God’s country -- western Oregon. One of the book’s characters even corrects a person who mispronounces Oregon. And the descriptions of the flora and fauna of the Pacific Northwest are perfect.
Interestingly, this book manages to be both unpleasant and gripping. Admittedly, I picked it up because I was homesick for the Pacific Northwest, and the beautifully detailed descriptions of a crunchy central Oregon town were spot-on, and I read the story to the end because observing the slow-motion train wreck of the story was sickly fascinating. Yet...the story also annoyed me. As other reviewers have mentioned, none of the characters are particularly sympathetic, and most of them are downrigh ...more
Sep 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
I struggled to get through this book. About 1/3 through, I was depressed. A crumbling marriage, a job in jeopardy, anarchists running amok.... I questioned my ability to read a book without a guaranteed happy ending. So, for my own sanity (and for this not to be the third book in a row I stopped reading because I was 'sad') I persevered. I finished. I enjoyed the last third immensely. I'm glad I finished this book; the characters are now happily cavorting in my imagination, and all is well with ...more
Mary Montgomery
Sep 21, 2018 rated it liked it
Some people would really like this. I liked the part about Corvallis, although they named it something else. The author and chief protagonist live here and that was cool. It was also extremely well-written. But when it started going the direction of anarchy I had to quit. Not my thing and I ostrich.

Renee Lytle
Jun 28, 2017 rated it really liked it
You can read my full review here:
Tim Lepczyk
Sep 21, 2011 rated it liked it
Anarchists, secessionists, and floundering academics!  Oh my!

Keith Scribner's novel, The Oregon Experiment, follows Scanlon Pratt and his wife, Naomi Greenburg, as they move from New York City to Douglas, Oregon, where Pratt is ready to begin his first tenure-track position in the Political Science Department.

Immediately, tension fills the pages as Naomi tries to cope with the move.  She's eight months pregnant, misses New York, and suffers from anosmia.  For Naomi, anosmia is crippling, because
May 27, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I really wanted to like this book. It could have been a good book.I waited a day to write about it to give myself a chance to decide if I hated it only because of how it portrayed anarchists. But no.

How often do people write fiction about anarchists, environmentalists, academics, and secessionists in the Northwest? Too bad the author had zero interest in the actual beliefs held by the kind of people he was characterizing.

It could have been a meditation on life, government, authority, organizing
Sara Van Dyck
Nov 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fict-s
Scanlon, a young professor with job problems, moves to “Douglas” (Eugene?) Oregon. with wife Naomi and baby, hoping to jump-start his career by studying a secession movement and anarchists in the NW. Scanlon and Naomi soon find themselves over their heads, dealing with destructive Clay, earth-mother Sequoia, plus academic and sexual jealousies.

Super depiction of Eugene: local places shifted around but the ambience kept intact. Scribner explores the reasoning of anti-establishment characters mos
Andy Miller
Aug 31, 2011 rated it really liked it
A fun and thought provoking novel about a couple who move to a college town in Oregon from the East, he is a newly hired professor and she is pregnant and plans to focus on motherhood until she can resume her career. They soon meet members of the "secessionist" movement and a young anarchist who disdains Scanlon and his professorial research but who develops a crush on Naomi.

When I initially read the reviews and plot summaries I was worried that this book would be a caricature, either a way out
Liz Simmons
Mar 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
This was weird. It is set in a fictional town in Oregon and (sort of) explores the Pacific Northwest anarchist subculture. It seems like a thinly disguised portrayal of Eugene, and it kind of annoyed me that he created a fake town name, because he includes so many real details everywhere else. You can tell that Scribner has been around this subculture of people, but it doesn't seem like he has a very nuanced understanding of them.

I also found the character of the professor's wife to be irritatin
Jan 18, 2012 rated it it was ok
This was an enjoyable (and quick) read - after taking a few months to make it through The Brothers K, I finished this in just a few days. The Oregon Experiment was a bizarre but somewhat interesting read. The main characters move to a small town in Oregon for an academic job (we're also just in the middle of an academic move, though not to anywhere that remote), and I did find them compelling and well developed. The way that Scribner wove the sense of smell throughout the story was one of the hi ...more
Sep 18, 2011 rated it really liked it
Overall, I liked this book pretty well. I read some of the reviews on Goodreads last night as I was almost finished. I can see the point behind point the negative and positive reviews. I tend to agree that the characters aren't particularly likable, but of course that needn't ruin a novel, and frankly I have a hard time imagining that the author would care whether you liked the characters or not. I was struggling to finish this book but another reviewer's remark that the book continued to open u ...more
Doug Mckeever
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jan 03, 2012 rated it it was ok
Ended up skimming: mildly amusing, but not enough to engage me. Perhaps if I had tons of time and not much else to read it would be better, though. I can't pinpoint why I wasn't interested except to say that I was not in the mood to read about these characters and their oddities, and of course the entire extreme radical enviro folks, who are basically anal retentive conservatives in disguise, gain no sympathy from me at all. Perhaps my failure to enjoy this book was entirely based on that? I'd s ...more
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was ok
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 22, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
This was a pretty good book. It took a whole slew of things that I not only didn't know much about, but didn't even particularly care about, and turned them handily into downright interesting plot devices.

While I feel like it got a little too hung up on kids and having kids and what having kids means to different people, the less bothersome points made up the difference. And that is probably my own fault anyway: I suppose it isn't the author's fault that I don't care about the minutiae of childr
Roberta Sallee
Aug 11, 2011 rated it did not like it
This took me a relatively long time to get through and I wasn't enjoying it in the duration. No offense to the author. Maybe it was me, or being on vacation, or just not concerned about the main topic...I don't know. I didn't like the characters (and there were too many of them for me to keep track of...not that I made the effort to).It sort of came together at the end (which was my favorite part). There were questions I had about some story references, but to be honest, I didn't care enough abo ...more
Potamus Hyper
Aug 29, 2011 rated it really liked it
"Fringe" folks interact with mainstream consumer types - I found this novel hilarious! Aren't secessionists underrepresented in literature? Another revolution is at work in the book: paying attention to scents is a way back to nature. So this novel may hurt for some people - since it's like recommitting to your wife's inherent godliness after pimping her for a few decades.

The status quo is destroying civilization more than any anarchist ever could. Viva Ecotopia!
Oct 10, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011, fiction
For a lefty like me, the characters and much of the plot of this story were interesting, but the author wasn't able to make me really believe in it all. It was a slightly too superficial treatment; perhaps it was that Scribner was unable to make me believe in Scanlon's passion for anarchy or radical movements? I'm not sure. Anyway, good story; solid writing; interesting characters . . . it just fell a little short of what it should have been. I give it 3 1/2 stars.
Ariana August
May 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
As someone who lives in the town Scribner is writing about, I was beyond pleased to recognize some of the spots he talks about in his book. Beyond that, however, I thought his style, tone and word choice were appropriate for the setting, and the storyline was fascinating.

I did grow to dislike most of the characters - which I'm fine with. If a writer makes me feel strongly any one way about characters in his/her book, they are doing something right.

Jan 23, 2012 rated it it was ok
It started out really good, then kind of unraveled into messy extramarital affairs, then abruptly dropped off. After developing the characters so well, I felt like the author dropped the story to quickly. It was, however, quite an interesting insight into the crazy minds of PNW secessionists. Sometimes they actually sounded rational.
Nov 18, 2013 rated it did not like it
I had to read this for a class in approximately a weeks time span. I am usually okay with overly descriptive books, but Scribner has a talent for making the reader uncomfortable and uninterested. I ended up not reading the whole thing, and googled the premise and themes. Maybe I carry the resentment of it being an assigned reading, but this was a rough book.
Jun 19, 2011 rated it really liked it
If you could do half stars this would be 4.5. I thought it was a great read. The characters were complex and engaging, the setting fabulous, and the plot about a unique subculture was fascinating. The Oregon Experiment weaves together some of the common stories in the PNW that make this area unique and gives it its character. I wish there were lots more books like it.
Lisa Lesyshen
Jul 12, 2011 rated it it was ok
I am sad that I did not like this book since so many other people liked it including Adam Ross who wrote Mr. Peanut (which I loved). This book has nothing to offer its reader except brief hints of interesting elements. So many incidents in the book are so unbelievable I cannot believe his editor left them in the book. A big disappointment!
An awful book. I picked it up because it was a secessionist tale based in Oregon. But the characters and plot were equally uninteresting to the point of being annoying. No reason to read this book.
Amanda Woodward
Apr 01, 2012 rated it it was ok
I really wanted to like this book more, but the main characters were shallow and self-centered and despite plenty of opportunities they never changed. I suppose that is realistic, but it makes for a disappointing read.
Feb 28, 2012 rated it it was ok
I found this book to have an interesting premise but it confused me.
Elliot Stoller
Sep 03, 2012 rated it liked it
One of my favorite Northwest novels.
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was ok
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Keith Scribner’s fourth novel, Old Newgate Road, will be released by Alfred A. Knopf (Penguin Random House) on January 8, 2019. His three previous novels are The Oregon Experiment, Miracle Girl, and The GoodLife, which was selected for the Barnes and Noble Discover Great New Writers series, and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year.

His fiction and nonfiction have appeared in The Daily Beas