If there’s a more generous writer in America than Jonathan Evison, I haven’t heard of him. (Full disclosure: Evison was kind enough to blurb two of my novels. This ain’t about that.) This son of Washington, a New York Times bestseller for his sweeping epic West of Here has engendered good will the old-fashioned way: by working damn hard at what he does, being thankful for the opportunities, using his time and talent to promote other writers and being a beacon of optimism in a business that breaks hearts as a matter of course.

With his latest, The Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving (Algonquin), set to drop on Aug. 28, Evison unspooled for a wide-ranging, multi-day email interview about the new book, writing a smaller, more intimate story after the ambitious West of Here, working through the darkness, and what he might say to the 15-years-younger version of himself.

 

Greetings, TNB readers and Book Club members!

This month’s TNB Book Club selection is Jonathan Evison’s West of Here.



 

 

According to the West of Here website, Evison’s book is “set in the fictional town of Port Bonita, on Washington State’s rugged Pacific coast. West of Here is propelled by a story that both re-creates and celebrates the American experience—it is storytelling on the grandest scale. With one segment of the narrative focused on the town’s founders circa 1890, and another showing the lives of their descendants in 2006, the novel develops as a kind of conversation between two epochs, one rushing blindly toward the future and the other struggling to undo the damage of the past.”

This past week, I got a Kindle. I have not been so changed by a reading experience since Stephen King’s Needful Things, which was the book that made me realize I wanted to tell stories. It’s the sort of genius-level device that demonstrates the fact that any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic. Truly wonderful.

port bonita

December, 1889

On the afternoon of December 14th, in the year of our lord 1889, the good steamer George E. Starr chugged around Ediz Hook in a driving squall, her bowels belching hemlock and cedar, as she pulled into ragged Port Bonita. When she landed at Morse Dock, nobody clamored to greet her. Only a few tatters of wet silk bunting were left to mark the occasion, when young Ethan Thornburgh strode off the George E. Starr onto an empty dock, clutching a lone leather suitcase, with the wind at his back, and his silver-eyed gaze leveled straight at the future. He might have looked like a dandy to the casual observer, a young man of some distinction, all buttoned up in a brown suit with tails, freshly coiffed, smelling of camphor and spices, his cleft chin clean-shaven, a waxed mustache mantling his lip like two sea horses kissing. But upon closer inspection, visible through the shifting mothholes in his wool trousers, a trained eye might have observed the shoe polish daubed on his underwear, or the fear in his silver-eyed gaze. One might even have glimpsed the yellow blue remnants of a shiner beneath his right eye.

Last summer, the legendary Booksmith in San Francisco made me my very own author “baseball card,” which was too cool, even though I look like a total cheese-dick in the publicity photo. The card said some nice things on the back regarding All About Lulu, and there was a blurb from one of my favorite writers, Tim Sandlin. But no stats!