By Lynn Willoughby
Mink River ~ Brian Doyle
This is Doyle’s debut novel. It is long and often wordy, but the prose is exquisite – there are quotes from William Blake, musical references including Puccini, Van Morrison and Bruce Springsteen, literary notes, the King James Bible is often quoted, Gaelic is frequently referenced, plus many Indigenous tales.
The setting is a fictional town in Oregon – with citizens who are mystical, artistic, inventive and some who are just plain weird. I really liked the people in this community. There are always opportunities for the townspeople to come together – over Daniel’s accident, or Dec shooting an entire dairy herd and inviting everyone to an “all you can eat” beef barbeque!
There are the usual small town affairs, almost-affairs, fights, brawls and mysteries, plus the unusual elements of a talking crow and a bear who saves a human life. We learn a lot about boats and fishing, the long gone forestry industry, Irish history, Salish stories, berries, insects and local wildlife.
This book is complex, the characters come to life on every page and while it takes place in the real world, we are often asked to suspend reality and enjoy the spiritual, natural side of life.
My only criticism – it’s too long.
Salmon berries are in the raspberry family, are quite tart, but taste like no other berry. They can be eaten raw and are also great in jams, jellies and pies.