Set in fictional Port Bonita, on the Olympic Peninsula of Washington state, West of Here is no less than epic. The narrative covers a timeline that is split between the late 1800s and the early 2000s, two periods that are united by the sublime power of the wilderness that surrounds the novel’s characters. The early settlers of Port Bonita are presented with a vast expanse of harsh land on the cusp of statehood, but blessed with what appears to be nearly limitless possibility—if only they can survive long enough to grasp it.
Fighting to maintain a hardscrabble existence on the very edge of the American frontier, bounded on one side by unconquerable mountains that threaten to push civilization into an inhospitable sea, the early frontiersmen and women of West of Here are truly on the very edge of a newly explored country. In contrast to their ancestors, the contemporary denizens of Port Bonita are watching their small corner of the world slowly erode as they attempt to undo the ambitions of their predecessors, chiefly a massive dam that, though it once brought power and progress, now chokes valuable fish runs and threatens to capsize the civilization it engendered.
The twists of the plots in West of Here are manifold and far too extensive to cover in any one review. Regardless, the journey down the paths author Jonathan Evison has created is so delightful that anyone who has taken it is loath to spoil it for another. This book is a living, breathing testament to Evison’s singular talent for creating portraits of people who may be fictional, but nevertheless are so vital that one is certain their names must be in a historic register somewhere. Like the people in his book, Evison’s grand ambition seems to have been snatched out of thin air and made real in a way that is simply undeniable.