From the Backlist: Mink River

Mink River (Brian Doyle, 2010)

Mink River is a difficult book to describe. In some ways it is reminiscent of the old tv show Northern Exposure, a sort of Pacific-Northwestern Magical Realist fantasy told in brief snapshots from multiple perspectives (including some non-human ones) that create a wonderful mosaic of life in this small town.

The story revolves around two aging men who take their work in the Public Works department very seriously and expand the scope of ‘public works’ to include anything in the public good. As such, it is essentially an exploration of community and the ‘common wealth,’ a wonderful old idea that is sadly disappearing from contemporary political discourse.

The unique structure of the book is put to good use, as it creates an overhead view of a struggling but caring community ecosystem.

This is not a well-known title, and perhaps it only stood out to me as it did because of its Cascadian setting that gives me strong feelings of home, but this book transported me fully into its world. There’s a healthy balance of gritty and realistic small town life and magical realist forest mysticism here that really worked for me, as the author explores what the limits of ‘public works’ might be in a world where we are all interconnected.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Cascadia / Pacific Northwest
  • Community
  • Magical Realism
  • Small Towns
  • The Commons

My Rating: Premise 9, Setting / Atmosphere 10, Main Character(s) 8, Plot 7, Intrigue 10, Relationships 10, Success / Fulfillment 10, Writing 10, Enjoyment 10, Lasting Impact / Meaning 10: 94


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