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Return to Oakpine – Ron Carlson – 6/10

“He’d been a writer, he realized early in his career, because he lived for loveliness and intensity but only if he could know about them, be aware, have the distance and the words that would make them ring and ring in him.”

oakpineJimmy Brand has come home to die. Thirty years after leaving his hometown in the wake of his brother’s tragic death, after a career as a successful journalist and author, he moves back into his parents’ garage because his father won’t have him in the house. His old bandmates rally round, bound by ties of loyalty and friendship, nostalgia and remorse.

This is a tricky one. Carlson writes beautiful set pieces. Larry’s fixation with running around the town, running away from the suburban prison, while happily fulfilling the role of his father’s apprentice is crystal clear and smooth. And yet I was bored, I was fed up with these people.

On the one hand, the setting feels stagnated; the town is fixed in its introspective isolation. Maybe I’m imprinting my own ambitions and drive on the characters, but the lives chronicled are so sadly ambivalent, mediocre and shambolic. No one’s relationships have turned out the way they should have – divorces, premature widowerhood and mental affairs abound. On the other hand, maybe that’s more real, and maybe Carlson’s gift is in capturing that, when too many writers are keen to have fiction make vivid that which is so rare in reality.

This is very much a type book; if you liked Sense of an Ending, or When God Was A Rabbit, or maybe The Spare Room (Spare Room is the best of these), you will enjoy this. If you’re not a fan of nostalgiaville, stay away.

Additional information:
Copy kindly provided by the publisher in return for an honest review.
Publisher: Viking
Order Return to Oakpinefrom Amazon*
* this is an affiliate link – I will be paid a small percentage of your purchase price if you use this link, which goes towards give-aways and site hosting

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