MINK RIVER

Brian Doyle & Mary Miller Doyle (Illustrator)

Like Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, Brian Doyle’s stunning fiction debut brings a town to life through the jumbled lives and braided stories of its people.

In a small fictional town on the Oregon coast there are love affairs and almost-love-affairs, mystery and hilarity, bears and tears, brawls and boats, a garrulous logger and a silent doctor, rain and pain, Irish immigrants and Salish stories, mud and laughter. There’s a Department of Public Works that gives haircuts and counts insects, a policeman addicted to Puccini, a philosophizing crow,

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Like Dylan Thomas’ Under Milk Wood and Sherwood Anderson’s Winesburg, Ohio, Brian Doyle’s stunning fiction debut brings a town to life through the jumbled lives and braided stories of its people.

In a small fictional town on the Oregon coast there are love affairs and almost-love-affairs, mystery and hilarity, bears and tears, brawls and boats, a garrulous logger and a silent doctor, rain and pain, Irish immigrants and Salish stories, mud and laughter. There’s a Department of Public Works that gives haircuts and counts insects, a policeman addicted to Puccini, a philosophizing crow, beer and berries. An expedition is mounted, a crime committed, and there’s an unbelievably huge picnic on the football field. Babies are born. A car is cut in half with a saw. A river confesses what it’s thinking. . .

It’s the tale of a town, written in a distinct and lyrical voice, and readers will close the book more than a little sad to leave the village of Neawanaka, on the wet coast of Oregon, beneath the hills that used to boast the biggest trees in the history of the world

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  • Oregon State University
  • Paperback
  • October 2010
  • 319 Pages
  • 9780870715853

Buy the Book

$18.95

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About Brian Doyle & Mary Miller Doyle (Illustrator)

Brian Doyle is the author of ten books, including Thirsty for the Joy: Australian and American Voices, Epiphanies and Elegies, and The Wet Engine. He edits Portland Magazine. at the University of Portland. Doyle’s essays have appeared in The Atlantic Monthly, Harper’s, Orion, The American Scholar, and in newspapers and magazines around the world. His essays have also been reprinted in the annual Best American Essays, Best American Science & Nature Writing, and Best American Spiritual Writing anthologies. Among various honors for his work is the Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Praise

“If my high-hearted friend Brian Doyle is trying to avoid the nickname ‘Paddy,’ his wondrous Oregon Coast novel is the wrong feckin’ way to go about it. In its sights, settings, insinuations, flora and fauna, his tale is quintessential North Coast, but in its sensibility and lilt this story is as Irish as tin whistles–and the pairing is an unprecedented delight. This thing reads like an Uilleann pipe tour de force by a Sligo County maestro cast up on the shores of County Tillamook. The hauntings and shadows, shards of dark and bright, usurpations by wonder, lust, blarney, yearning, are coast-mythic in flavor but entirely bardic at heart. Doyle’s sleights of hand, word, and reality burr up off the page the way bits of heather burr out of a handmade Irish sweater yet the same sweater is stained indigenous orange by a thousand Netarts Bay salmonberries. I’ve read no Northwest novel remotely like it and enjoyed few novels more. Of an Irishman’s Oregon I am nothing but glad to have wandered, Mink River sings and sings.”David James Duncan, author of The Brothers K and The River Why

“Absolutely in the tradition of Northwest literature, richly imagined, distinctive, beautiful … I was pulled along steadily, my heart raced, I held my breath…”Molly Gloss, author of The Hearts of Horses and The Jump-Off Creek

Discussion Questions

1. Some have described the writing style in Mink River as stream of consciousness, like a babbling brook, or a lullaby. What did you think of the style?

2. What are your thoughts on the structure of the story; did you like the alternating chapters, interwoven plot lines?

3. What role does the Oregon Coast play as a setting for the story? Is this setting essential? Why or why not?

4. What do you think of Cedar’s reply to No Horses about habits and people who helped him get through dark times? Based on your own life experiences, is there a piece of advice you’d add to what he says?

5. Which characters in the book show the “certain ferocious attention to things” that Cedar describes? What are some examples, and can you name ways this habit has helped those characters through dark times?

6. Storytelling is an important activity for several characters in the book. Do you have stories within your own family that you have passed along? Why does the author seem to think that storytelling is important?

7. How do you feel about how death of the various characters is portrayed in Mink River? Consider the characters’ types, how they died and how their experience just after death is described.

8. What did you think of Moses? Did you like the idea of a talking crow? What do you think of magical realism in general?

9. The Department of Public Works handled much more than city maintenance. Do you think there is a place for a department of public works of this nature within your own city?

10. Discuss the community of Neawanka: its strengths and weaknesses.

11. What do you think the source of Nora’s pain—she says it is “no hope”, what does she mean? Is her pain ever resolved?

12. Abuse is featured in the book, how do you think this difficult subject was handled?

13. Each character within the book is either struggling or searching. Choose a character and describe the struggle or search and describe also the resolution, if any.

14. How are music, art, and language important aspects of Mink River’s community?

15. Describe some of the themes presented in the book. Are there any that you relate to?

16. What do you think Worried Man will be able to offer his family and community as a result of his stroke?

17. Discuss the doctor’s life and his role in the community and his study of the Bible.

18. What happened when Sara’s baby first made a sound; what was the sound and what affect did it have on the family?

19. What was your reaction when Declan killed his cows? What did you think of the consequence, i.e. how the community responded?

20. Share any other impressions you have of the book. Did the author’s style remind you of any other authors? Did Mink River remind you of any other books?

Discussion Questions provided courtesy of Lake Oswego Library