A Few Hidden Gems: Pacific Northwest Fiction

By Jennifer K.

The Pacific Northwest is home to many brilliant and bestselling authors: Macomber, Alexie, Hannah, Le Guin, Stephenson … If you’re interested in the regional literary scene, you probably already know all about those.

I’d like to introduce you to a few Pacific Northwest reads you might not have heard of.

Mink River by Brian Doyle

This magical little novel captures the flavor of an Oregon coast town, while at the same time being completely improbable and strange. Here you’ll find fishermen and cops and out-of work loggers, bars and beaches and rivers. And also talking crows, sentient bears, poetic lyricism and magical realism. Mink River is short on plot and long on charm. It’s not everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it.

The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

It’s the Great Depression in Seattle. Flora and Henry are from two different worlds. Flora is an African-American from a bad neighborhood, who sings jazz at  night and longs to be a pilot someday. Henry is a rich white boy, an orphan whose financial future is set but whose soul longs for something more. Their love story isn’t any ordinary love story, because the anthropomorphized figures of Love and Death have made a bet on the outcome. This is a completely original story, and the Seattle setting is top-rate.

Exhalation by Ted Chiang

Did you see Arrival, the 2016 science fiction movie with Amy Adams and large floating extraterrestrial obelisk-ship-things? Then you’re already somewhat familiar with the work of Ted Chiang – that film was based on one of his mind-bending speculative stories. Exhalation is a new short-story collection, in which familiar sci-fi tropes like time travel and sentient artificial beings are reborn in Chiang’s visionary imagination.

Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson

This is a dark, messy, weird novel about a boy, Jared, who seems like an ordinary teenager: a messed-up kid, son of a too-poor single mom, a kid with too much violence and alcohol and drugs in his life, a kid with no one to turn to. Gradually, though, signs point to the fact that Jared might be something more. Read this for all the dark complexities of Jared’s family and community relationships, and for the subtle influence of the paranormal on his life.

Crescent by Diana Abu-Jaber

And to end on a not-so-dark note, here is an exquisite love story from Portland author Diana Abu-Jaber. Here you will meet Sirine, an Iraqi-American chef who meets a handsome Iraqi refugee and college professor named Hanif. As their relationship plays out, this novel explores themes of identity and exile, and is full of truly delicious descriptions of food.

 

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I know there are more hidden gems out there! If you have a favorite Pacific Northwest novel, tell us about it in the comments.

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