Please leave a comment for a chance to win a copy of Ron Carlson’s RETURN TO OAKPINE. Viking, a division of Penguin Group publishing, is sponsoring my giveaway. I have to thank them for their generosity!
Ron Carlson has mastered the small town atmosphere of Oakpine, Wyoming, perfectly. When Jimmy Brand returns to his hometown to die, after living in New York City for three decades, and being a successful writer, we know something drastic is in the mix. Jimmy returns in 1999.
Carlson follows the lives of four middle-aged men as they look back on their last year of high school. They founded a rock band, dated, played winning football games, and pretty much set the directions their lives were due to take. But most lives do not turn out as predicted. And these guys are pure examples.
Craig owns and runs the town hardware store. His wife is discontent. His seventeen-year-old son is in his last year of high school. It’s definitely time for reflection. And what of Craig? Where is his life going?
Frank owns the town bar. He’s recently broken with his wife and has taken up with a much younger woman.
Mason has returned to the town to restore his family home after the death of his parents. His life as a successful lawyer in Denver is no longer challenging him. He finds working with his hands to fix this house up is much more stimulating than sitting at a boardroom table all day. Plus, after just going through a divorce, he is at loose ends.
Jimmy Brand once had a full life in NYC. He had a partner he had lived with and loved for years. Then his partner died a long, lingering death of Aids. Then Jimmy came down with this dread disease that was so rampant so many years ago. Now he’s come home to live in his parents’ garage and waste away, all the while, hoping for forgiveness from his father. For, you see, Jimmy’s dad has always blamed Jimmy for the death of his brother Matt so many years ago. Matt was the wild one in the family. Even at the young age of seventeen, he was afflicted with alcoholism.
I grew up in a very small town in Delaware. I know what it’s like to grow up in a town where everyone knows everyone else. This well-written novel brought back memories, not always pleasant. It’s hard to write small town. It has to be simply done, yet perfectly. Carlson has managed to pull it off. Everyone has good and bad memories of their youth. We all could probably come up with several stories if we delve deeply enough. There are several stories right here. And they are all special.
This is more than a story about Aids in the sixties. Much, much more. It’s a story of growing up, acceptance, change, dreams and regrets.
Most of us do not want to become our parents. The young men in this novel struggle to be different. Two of them actually get out of town. But they all eventually return. For different reasons.
Ron Carlson writes in the tradition of Richard Ford and Richard Russo. I have to say this story would definitely appeal to a masculine readership. You might wish to enter to win a copy of this novel to give to the man in your life. Or share it with him when you are finished.
Thanks again to Viking for the giveaway. It will end midnight on July 25. Please, no P.O. boxes, and U.S. only. Thanks a bunch!