Return to Oakpine
written by Ron Carlson
published by Viking, 2013
Disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Did I enjoy this book: I spent the first two hundred pages wondering if perhaps I’m not quite old enough to enjoy a book as notstalgic as Return to Oakpine. I didn’t notice I’d fallen in love until I’d nearly finished reading, and now I’m wishing I’d have read more slowly and enjoyed it a bit more (insert Yo Dawg meme here). The whole “everything is like high school” theme was a bit too blatant for my taste, and MILD SPOILER ALERT
the timing of Jimmy’s death was just a touch too convenient to be believable. Ultimately, though, Carlson’s written a lovely book about human nature that I’m glad I read.
“‘You can get your innocence back?’ Kathleen said to him.
‘Oh yes, ma’am. I’ve read about it.'”
Would I recommend it: You’ll love it if you’re in the mood for nostalgia.
About the book – from Goodreads: From a widely admired author, a poignant novel about homecoming, friendship, growing up, and growing old for fans of Richard Ford and Richard Russo
In this finely wrought portrait of western American life, Ron Carlson takes us to the small town of Oakpine, Wyoming, and into the lives of four men trying to make peace with who they are in the world.
In high school, these men were in a band. One of them, Jimmy, left Oakpine for New York City after the tragic death of his brother. A successful novelist, he has returned thirty years later, in 1999—because he is dying.
With Carlson’s characteristic grace, we learn what has become of these friends and the different directions of their lives. Craig and Frank never left; Mason, a top lawyer in Denver, is back in town to fix up and sell his parents’ house. Now that they are reunited, getting the band back together might be the most important thing they can do.
Return to Oakpine is a generous, tender look at friendship, family, and the roads not taken, by a writer at the peak of his craft.