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Friday, August 9, 2013

Book Review - Return To Oakpine by Ron Carlson

About The Book:

From a widely admired author, a poignant novel about homecoming, friendship, growing up, and growing old for fans of Richard Ford and Richard Russo.

In this finely wrought portrait of western American life, Ron Carlson takes us to the small town of Oakpine, Wyoming, and into the lives of four men trying to make peace with who they are in the world.
In high school, these men were in a band. One of them, Jimmy, left Oakpine for New York City after the tragic death of his brother. A successful novelist, he has returned thirty years later, in 1999—because he is dying.

With Carlson’s characteristic grace, we learn what has become of these friends and the different directions of their lives. Craig and Frank never left; Mason, a top lawyer in Denver, is back in town to fix up and sell his parents’ house. Now that they are reunited, getting the band back together might be the most important thing they can do.

Return to Oakpine
is a generous, tender look at friendship, family, and the roads not taken, by a writer at the peak of his craft.

My Thoughts:

There are hundreds of books written about women's friendships, but it is rare that a book about the friendships shared by men comes along.  Ron Carlson's book, "Return To Oakpine," is such a book and is brilliantly presented as a story of close male friendships that have last over 30 years.

The characters in this book are four men who went to high school together in the tiny town of Oakpine, Wyoming and who have reunited many years later as one of their group has returned home to die. All are strong in their own ways, yet each have a venerability about them that endears them to the reader as the story progresses. In addition, the women who are involved with the men, as well as their families are given voice in this heart-warming, yet heart-wrenching tale.

I enjoyed this story and would love to return to more tales of Oakpine.  And as a musician's wife, I enjoyed the way the band that the four used to have in their youth brings them closer together in their more "mature" days.

I highly recommend this novel for those who enjoy Americana writing at it's best.

About The Author:

Ron Carlson is the author of five story collections and four novels, including The Signal and Five Skies. His fiction has appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, Playboy, GQ, Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He is the director of the writing program at the University of California at Irvine and lives in Huntington Beach, California.

My thanks to Viking/Penguin Books for the review copy of this book. I was not compensated for my opinion.

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