Return to Oakpine

Ron Carlson. Viking, $25.95 (272p) ISBN 978-0-670-02507-7
The smalltown homecoming featured in the fourth novel from Carlson (The Signal) proves a bittersweet and nostalgic one. Jimmy Brand, following a 30-year absence from his hometown and a successful career in New York City as a novelist, returns to Oakpine, Wyo., in 1999, broke and deathly ill from AIDS. His father Edgar, still wrongly blaming Jimmy for his oldest son Matt’s fatal boating accident and struggling to accept Jimmy’s homosexuality, banishes him to the family’s garage-converted apartment. Jimmy’s old friend Craig Ralston, the town hardware store owner, comes by with his teenage son, Larry, to fix up the garage, sparking Craig’s fond memories of their high school band, Life on Earth. Craig, along with fellow bandmates Mason Kirby, who left Oakpine to pursue a lucrative law career in Denver, and Frank Gunderson, a local bar owner, decide to resurrect Life on Earth, a welcomed diversion from their divorces and unsatisfying jobs, while Jimmy seeks to repair the long-term rift with his father. Carlson warmly evokes smalltown life, such as when he describes Larry’s senior high school prom, and this sometimes-melancholy tale reaches a satisfying conclusion with the reunited rock group’s entry into a local battle-of-the-bands contest. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt and Hochman. (July)
Reviewed on: 05/13/2013
Release date: 07/11/2013
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