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West of Here

3.37  ·  Rating details ·  2,603 ratings  ·  508 reviews
At the foot of the Elwha River, the muddy outpost of Port Bonita is about to boom, fueled by a ragtag band of dizzyingly disparate men and women unified only in their visions of a more prosperous future. A failed accountant by the name of Ethan Thornburgh has just arrived in Port Bonita to reclaim the woman he loves and start a family. Ethan’s obsession with a brighter fut ...more
Hardcover, 486 pages
Published February 7th 2011 by Algonquin Books
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Average rating 3.37  · 
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 ·  2,603 ratings  ·  508 reviews

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When it comes to books – strike that. When it comes to life, I am a creature of habit. I get into certain routines (some might call them ruts), find my comfort level, and grow content to stay there. This annoys my wife, because many of my routines involve me wearing sweatpants for an entire weekend. Similar to my sartorial choices, my reading habits often display a lack of breadth and imagination. I simply love history, and so I tend to read books about history. I can read for months entirely ig ...more
Andy Miller
Apr 04, 2011 rated it it was ok
This disappointing novel is set in fictional Port Bonita Washington, a thinly disguised Port Angeles. It alternates between 1890 and 2006. There were some interesting characters and story lines from the 1890 portion but the transitions to 2006 were jolting and the modern characters were so unsympathetic I found myself looking forward to the return to the 1890 storyline which unfortunately unraveled.

The book of course ties characters from the two eras. One tie involves a mute native american boy
May 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I picked up an ARC of West of Here at this year's BEA and I am glad I got a chance to read it as early as I did. This book is a sweeping epic, it's as if Kesey's Sometimes a Great Notion and Eugenides' Middlesex had a love child. While reading you can actually feel the Olympic Peninsula all around you just as you could feel Oregon's coastal forests in Kesey's great book.

West of Here is like a freight train, it starts off at a steady pace allowing you to become familiar with its broad cast of ch
William Ramsay
Mar 05, 2011 rated it liked it
This is a flawed novel from a very good writer. I have trouble understanding what he was getting at in writing it. It's sort of a history of a place called Port Bonita in the far northwest corner of the US. Part of the story takes place in 1889/90. The rest takes place in 2006. The story isn't told as a normal progression - rather, he jumps between the two periods, telling fragments of stories at each jump. The stories involve a large cast of characters. The major flaw with this method of storyt ...more
Julie Christine
In March 2012, the final pieces of concrete and steel of the Elwha River Dam were removed. For one hundred years, man tried to harness the power of this river that flows through the haunting green and glacial interior of the Olympic Peninsula. Before it was dammed (damned), it hosted annual runs of fish, which numbered in the millions - sockeye, Coho, Chinook, cutthroat trout, steelhead, char, among many; it gave life to black bear, cougar, madrona and red cedar. It flowed through the ancestral ...more
Jason Pettus
Dec 25, 2010 rated it it was amazing
(Reprinted from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography []. I am the original author of this essay, as well as the owner of CCLaP; it is not being reprinted illegally.)

As regular readers know, I only give out perfect tens at CCLaP an average of two or three times a year, and the title has to pass a highly exacting list of criteria to earn it: among other requirements, it must of course be impeccably written, find a great mix between plot and character development, surpri
Jake Ratliff
Oct 05, 2013 rated it did not like it
~ Ethan Thornburgh

In West of Here, a cavalcade of two-dimensional, often cartoonish, characters spin their wheels for 500-odd pages.

While the nature descriptions were sometimes good, the author's descriptions of his characters were often so odd as to be unintelligible. Tell me how someone, barring some rare medical condition, can have "pointed blue eyes."

The worst quote from the book, however, comes when Ethan (view spoiler)
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
For a novel about conquering the frontier, West of Here is refreshingly free of frontier wisdom. In fact it's also wonderfully free of platitudes of any kind, which is incredibly rare in a novel of it's scope.

As someone familiar with the area in which the story takes place, I was impressed by how well Evison captured the landscape, and also how he captured the general mood of contemporary small town Washington state.

The stories in the book are entertaining, compelling, and compassionate. Aside
Neil McCrea
I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of this book from the author back in August. It was quickly read and has often been on my mind since then. West of Here has defied my ability to review it, and not just because the author is a friend.

The Pacific Northwest has been home to both sides of my family for many generations, and both sides have had a deep passion for genealogy and local history. McCreas and McKinneys came over from Scotland and helped found towns from Couer d'Alene, Idaho to Klamath
Christopher Swann
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
West of Here sticks with you for a while. That might not seem odd, given the size of the novel (nearly 500 pages). But it doesn't read like a big novel, not in the sense that you have to wade through several hundred pages. It certainly feels like a big novel, and how could it not? Two timelines a century apart, multiple characters, multiple plots and subplots including a wilderness expedition, building (and later un-building) a dam, a parole officer searching for his newest parolee, doomed roman ...more
Mar 08, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Jonathan Evison’s “West of Here” is a gritty, full bodied epic set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, Washington. The beginning pulls the reader in with beautiful, assured narration and indelible characters who embody the spirit of the pioneers who ventured west in search of opportunity. These are men who set out to move the course of a river, who imagined selling ice gathered at mountain tops, who envisaged electric stairs, and who dreamed they could save the culture of a people. These are w ...more
Sep 04, 2011 rated it did not like it
The more I think about the low points of this novel the more I realize how much I truly disliked it. I really, really wanted to like it, and I started out thinking these were great characters and that this story was going to be big on a grand scale....then the 1800s chapters came to an abrupt end, I was thrown into the present with a bunch of pitiful, desperate humans I didn't care much for and all I wanted to do was skip ahead and get back to what was happening with the folks I did care about. ...more
Apr 09, 2010 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2011
i've been thinking about reading and what makes it special. i love it most of all because of i love words, and taking them in, and how they're arranged because they speak to me very clearly when i take them in through my eyes. i absorb them and they speak through the writer into my own experience, and desire, my fear, and my hope.

in west of here, jonathan evison tells many stories, woven together to comprise a town in tapestry, not limited to one set of people, or time. it is an ambitious book
Nov 10, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-2011
From the first page to the last, I was there. Jonathan's voice took me on a hike through the Washington wilderness along snowy mountain peaks in the dead of winter in the 1890's and I drove past a Taco Bell and Walmart in 2006 in a Monte Carlo sitting next to Rita. I still feel the cold and smell of Merit second-hand smoke.

The structure of this book was thoughtfully and brilliantly created. Jumping from the 1890's to 2006 was not as harsh or distracting as I first thought it might be... especial
The best thing about West of Here is that the book itself is a big idea. And it's nicely atmospheric, the majesty of the Pacific Northwest comes across more clearly than any of the thirty-odd characters that populate its pages.

But despite the reviews making free use of words like 'sweeping' and 'epic,' to describe it, this book is neither. It is merely long, with much of that length in the vastly overwritten sectional chapters. I would propose that, when your book is weighing in at 486 pages, an
Kerry Dunn
Mar 17, 2010 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2010
I was lucky enough to score an ARC of Jonathan Evison’s West of Here and I have to admit that it surprised me. I knew the man could write, his first novel All About Lulu was a lovely coming of age story told with a unique voice that I liked a lot. But Lulu in no way prepared me for the staggering scope of West of Here.

Set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, Washington, the book follows two timelines. The first timeline begins in 1889 and focuses on Port Bonita's founding and the damming of th
"Port Bonita is not a place, but a spirit, an essence, a pulse; a future still unfolding.... Onward! There is a future, and it begins right now."

This is a quote from the last few pages of the book, but it's truly the essence of the book as well. Evison has referred to this book as his "little opus" with some humor--this is a chunky book. But it covers 126 years (1880-2006) and is told in 42 voices (I didn't count them--he did), so what else could he do? What is interesting is that the only true
Ron Charles
Apr 03, 2011 rated it liked it
Warning: Don’t try to enjoy “West of Here” in snippets before bed. If you can’t read all 500 pages in one marathon sitting, at least keep a list of the characters as they appear, or you’ll get lost in the throng of Jonathan Evison’s voracious story. It’s 1889, when the Washington Territory — the last frontier — has been admitted to the Union. Into this rain-drenched wilderness, Evison introduces a town’s worth of daring folk who dream and plot and clash as they carve lives in the “uncharted inte ...more
Feb 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: fans of historical fiction and of Jonathan Evison

I was blown away by Jonathan Evison's first novel, All About Lulu and have been eagerly awaiting this new one. While it is a long stretch from a coming of age story to historical fiction, the aspects of Evison's writing that so impressed me are still present in West of Here, expanded and honed even further.

West of Here is a mashup of historical novel and contemporary angst set in the Olympic Peninsula just southwest of Seattle, WA. In November, 1889, James Mather sets out to conquer the last f
Carl R.
May 16, 2012 rated it it was ok
West of Here as a concept has a great deal going for it. Jonathan Evison’s cast is superb, the setting (Olympic Peninsula) rife with possibilities--landscape, weather, history. The events of the book center around the building of a dam (1890), then tearing it down 120 years later. We bounce back and forth between 1890 and 2006 and between a host of interesting people. Nearly every 1890 character and event has a 2006 parallel, and an aura mystery and magic surrounds the story in the persons
of Sas
Feb 22, 2011 rated it did not like it
Shelves: general-fiction
Don't waste your time with this book; I would give it less than one star if I could. I started it and put it down within the first 15 pages. The story is about several generations of people in Port Bonita, Washington. I usually love this kind of novel, but not this one. I can't believe Stephen King and others rated it so highly. It is very poorly written. It is full of cliche's and obvious idioms and figures of speech; it shows a poor writer if he can't come up with less obvious phrasing. I also ...more
Mar 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2011
I loved this book. Read it in two days flat. Even woke up during the night to keep going. Very few authors can pull off intricately structured novels that weave back and forth between multiple characters and moments in history. Evison manages to do it, and the result is a tour de force: the strong and sweeping storytelling of a masterful omniscient voice similar to Sir Walter Scott or Dickens. Right up there with today's big guns Franzen and Lethem, or perhaps more Maureen Howard and Louis de Be ...more
Travis Fortney
Feb 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Yowzah! This is a rare and wonderful book. It's a historical/eco/po-mo/wistfully-romantic/bildungsroman/tragicomic mashup that comes in at 500 pages, features 40 points of view, manages to be entertaining and readable, effortlessly places literary references alongside pop culture, and ends up being deeply affecting, as well as very uplifting (it slowly dawns on you that that the two timelines--1890 and 2006--are essentially about the "rise" and "rise" of Port Bonita, the fictional town where the ...more
Dec 10, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: couldn-t-finish
West of Here has fallen prey to my new "life is too short to finish a book just because you started it" philosophy. I loved "The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving" and wanted to love this also. Evison's writing is excellent, I just could not embrace his subject matter. The realities of the wild west offer little variation: things are either grim or grimmer. Evison populates his story with a lot of main characters, moving between them so often that it's hard to attach to any particular one. I'm ...more
Jan 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
Living near 'West of Here' an interesting advent of different realities paralleling each other then and now... ...more
David O'neill
Feb 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
In late 2010, long before Borders was officially closing down, the novel West of Here arrived as ARC at my store. Still coming down from the high that was filming Judas Kiss in Seattle and remembering the grandeur and beauty of the area, I was intrigued by the book –an ambitious historical book on the Pacific Northwest. But as most book readers will tell you –and even writers- a lot of books end up on the shelf because either one other novel takes precedence or –as sometimes happens- you are not ...more
Greg Zimmerman
Feb 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
On the surface, Jonathan Evison's West of Here is pretty simple: It's the story of the people who inhabit the small fictional town of Port Bonita, Washington. Two dueling story lines from two different times (1890 and 2006) chronicle the fortunes of the folks in the tiny burg located on the northern coast of Washington's Olympic Peninsula.

But when you really dig into the underbrush, you discover an incredibly inventive story that churns along at a deceptively quick pace. Having told you that, it
Feb 25, 2017 rated it it was ok
In this case I have to award 3 stars for liking one third of the book, but rarely have I been so disappointed in the direction chosen by an author. You really get into the wonders of the Pacific Northwest and the early (1890's) settlers, though fictional, when you are suddenly and rudely catapulted into 2006 and confronted with disturbing and vulgar descendants of these pioneers.
Forget that...just looking through book again for the redeeming qualities that seduced me into reading further - the
I love the rich and messy expanse of this novel. The sheer volume of characters and story lines are easily remembered and brought together by the world of Port Bonita. The 1890 frontier town and 2000s city are very much the same place - full of rain and water, men who drink, women who suffer, and surrounded by the harsh environment of the Olympic peninsula.

I like that each character had a strong, developed identity that changed over the course of the novel, despite the fact that each individual
Stacey Woods
May 06, 2012 rated it liked it
I’m quite a fan of the really big, American novels. Lonesome Dove, Gone With the Wind, North and South, you get the idea, so West of Here by Jonathan Evison is right up my street. I don’t know why, but I find Americans fascinating, particular those early pioneers who set out to tame the wilderness and the desperate search for land at all costs and this book perfectly captures that spirit in the fictional town of Port Bonita. But not only does Jonathan Evison craft a town on the rise during the 1 ...more
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Jonathan Evison is the New York Times Bestselling author of All About Lulu, West of Here, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving, This is Your Life, Harriet Chance!, and Lawn Boy.

In his teens, Evison was the founding member and frontman of the Seattle punk band March of Crimes, which included future members of Pearl Jam and Soundgarden.

Born in San Jose, California, he now lives on an island in Wes

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A vast frontier tale set in the untamed wilderness of the Olympic Mountains, West of Here connects a multitude of scrappy characters living in two...
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“Can we really be whoever we want to be, now that we’ve collected all that we are?” 9 likes
“We are born haunted, he said, his voice weak, but still clear. Haunted by our fathers and mothers and daughters, and by people we don't remember. We are haunted by otherness, by the path not taken, by the life unlived. We are haunted by the changing winds and the ebbing tides of history. And even as our own flame burns brightest, we are haunted by the embers of the first dying fire. But mostly, said Lord Jim, we are haunted by ourselves.” 8 likes
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