The Oregon Experiment
By Keith Scribner
(Knopf, Hardcover, 9780307594785, 352pp.)
Publication Date: June 14, 2011
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East Coast transplants to small-town Oregon, Naomi and Scanlon Pratt are at the threshold of a new life. Scanlon has a position at the local university—teaching mass movements and domestic radicalism—and Naomi, a fragrance designer whose sense of smell has inexplicably vanished, is pregnant with their first child.
For Scanlon, all of this is ideal, from impending fatherhood to the chance for professional vindication. The Pacific Northwest provides ample opportunities for field research, and almost immediately he finds a subject in Clay, a troubled young anarchist who despises Scanlon’s self-serving attempts at friendship but adores Naomi. He also becomes involved with a regional secessionist group and—despite his better judgment—with its leader, a sensuous free spirit called Sequoia.
Naomi, while far less enchanted with these radically different surroundings, discovers that Oregon has something to offer her as well: an extraordinary world of scents. Her acutely sensitive nose is somehow revived, though she certainly doesn’t like everything she’s smelling. And as the Pratts welcome their newborn son, their lives become so deeply entwined with Clay’s that they must soon decide exactly where their loyalties lie, before the increasingly volatile activism that Scanlon has been dabbling in engulfs them all.
A contemporary civil war between desire and betrayal, rich in crisp, luxuriant detail, The Oregon Experiment explores a minefield of convictions and complications at once political, social, and intimately personal.
Keith Scribner is the author of two previous novels, Miracle Girl and The GoodLife, a New York Times Notable Book and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. He is a recipient of Stanford University’s Wallace Stegner and John L’Heureux fellowships, and is currently a professor at Oregon State University in Corvallis, where he lives with his wife, the poet Jennifer Richter, and their children.