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I’ve written before about my adoration of Jonathan Evison’s forthcoming novel, West of Here. It’s a big, beautiful, sprawling tale of the American experience, set in fictional Port Bonita, Washington, and rooted in two eras: the town’s founding, and its pioneers’ headlong rush toward the future, and 2006, as their descendants try to unwind the mistakes of the past.

Algonquin, Evison’s publisher, has put an incredible effort into the book, and it shows. More than a month before its February 15th release, the book has sold out its first printing. This is going to be a huge novel. I highly recommend adding it to your reading list.

While you’re waiting for the book, why not pay a visit to Port Bonita? The uber-cool website for the book allows you to do just that.

The level of detail is just stunning. There are beautifully rendered maps and postcards of a place that sprung whole from Evison’s imagination. You can read excerpts from the book, a bit about Evison (who is a fascinating story unto himself), and a love letter from Evison’s editor, Chuck Adams, that makes it clear why Algonquin is betting so heavily on West of Here. I’d say it’s a wise bet.

Go there. Now.


An advance reader copy of Jonathan Evison’s new novel, West of Here, arrived in the mail today thanks to a friend’s kindness.

Isn’t it beautiful?

At nearly 500 pages, it will be commanding my attention for some time. Tonight, I’ve mostly been staring at it and marveling over the look that was commissioned. It vaguely reminded me of something, and for the longest time I couldn’t put my finger on it. Then it hit me.

Of course:

It looks like a classic novel from the late ’30s, early ’40s. Not precisely like those, but the combination of illustration, color and sweeping typography definitely evokes an earlier era.

And judging from the gusto with which Evison’s publisher, Algonquin, is promoting West of Here, perhaps “classic” is a fitting word.

This is one I can’t wait to crack.

Advance copies of Jonathan Evison’s new novel, West of Here, started landing on doorsteps this week.

The description will make you want to read it:

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.

An exposition on the effects of time, on how something said or done in one generation keeps echoing through all the years that follow, and how mistakes keep happening and people keep on trying to be strong and brave and, most important, just and right, West of Here harks back to the work of such masters of Americana as Bret Harte, Edna Ferber, and Larry McMurtry, writers whose fiction turned history into myth and myth into a nation’s shared experience. It is a bold novel by a writer destined to become a major force in American literature.

Delicious, no? Well, check this out:

Apparently, Evison’s publisher, Algonquin, loves this book enough to give the advance copies packaging that is, simply, too cool for school. A couple of boxes, postcards, maps, a letter from the book’s editor and — oh, yeah — the book itself.

My friend Jim Thomsen, the lucky recipient of one of these packages, forwarded me some photos. Check it:

Isn’t that just the coolest damn thing ever?

In a few weeks, I’ll be sending out some review copies of my next novel — and I’m suddenly, surprisingly, sad to say that they’ll go out in plain padded envelopes. Maybe I’ll stick some Necco wafers in there, just to amp up my game a little.

Visit Jonathan’s website here. And better yet, buy his book. I have a feeling it’s going to be big.