Return to Oakpine
By Ron Carlson
(Viking, Hardcover, 9780670025077, 272pp.)
Publication Date: July 11, 2013
Other Editions of This Title: Paperback
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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.
Ron Carlson is the author of five story collections and four novels, including The Signal and Five Skies. His fiction has appeared in Harper’s, The New Yorker, Playboy, GQ, Best American Short Stories, and The O. Henry Prize Stories. He is the director of the writing program at the University of California at Irvine and lives in Huntington Beach, California.
"A love story and a wilderness adventure that mount to a climax of shocking, and satisfying, violence."
— Los Angeles Times
"Carlson never drops an extra word or a false phrase, even as The Signal accelerates like an avalanche...If men can't be brought back to fiction by books as fine as this one, it's their own damn fault."
— The Washington Post
"Powerful...a bittersweet love story and a rousing adventure."
— The Miami Herald
"Read Ron Carlson's latest, The Signal, and you'll be convinced that the answer to your worries resides in the woods, in getting back to basics....It's a sweet, tidy little book about a broken rancher. And yet it won't just help you pass the time, it will help you out." — Esquire
"Long revered as a master of the short story, Carlson has a talent for describing landscape (both internal and external), and that translates here intact. At fewer than two hundred pages, it's beach ready, too."
"Ron Carlson is probably the best American writer you've never heard of."
— The Daily Beast
"Uncommonly fine...Carlson's writing is crisp and blunt, much like the very Wyoming landscape he describes. The Signal is about small, tight things that widen out into immensities. it is about love and regret and the pain of loss and the wild parts of Wyoming." — Chicago Tribune
Praise for Five Skies:
"A life-changing work of fiction."
— Los Angeles Times
"Carlson's style--low-key, deliberate, reminiscient of both early Hemingway and contemporay James Salter...can turn even a shopping list into a poem."
— The Washington Post
— The Atlantic
"Ron Carlson's beautifully crafted and emotionally wrenching novel about nonverbal but deep-feeling males in flyover country is more refreshing than an ice-cold Coors." — Entertainment Weekly
Praise for Return to Oakpine
“Carlson’s new novel, with its themes of male friendship and second chances, hoes much the same furrow as his lovely previous books Five Skies and The Signal… Carlson’s crafted an emotive yet pellucid prose style that conveys the profound spiritual satisfactions of homecoming.”—The Wall Street Journal
“As stirring and memorable and utterly rejuvenating a novel as you’ll read…Carlson infuses these pages with such conviction, such perfectly orchestrated pathos…the book is as lean and structured as a sonnet, and it has a split-focus climax as sharp as an ax.”—The Washington Post
“In this new book of his, Ron Carlson has done a splendid job of making a reader feel at home in Oakpine…Carlson can sometime sound the music of the entire novel in a single sentence.”—Alan Cheuse, “All Things Considered,” National Public Radio
“Engaging…These men and their tender, disgruntled families get almost enough to sustain them, but not quite enough to calm the inner cry. These characters will stay with you because this is how we are too.”—The New York Times Book Review
“[An] eloquent and moving novel…the tension that drives Return to Oakpine [is] between what we want to do and what we need to do, between our dreams and our responsibilities.”—Los Angeles Times
“In this novel by an American master, four middle-aged friends, once members of the same high school band, reunite in their Wyoming hometown thirty years later, reconciling the people they’ve become with the kids they used to be.”—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Carlson excels in small-town Western Americana, in both embracing and interrogating nostalgia in quiet, controlled prose…a humane portrait of the lives we lead and leave behind, peeling back nostalgia’s gold veneer with grace, empathy, and a pragmatic sense of optimism.”—Kansas City Star