Going to Bend
you have ever lived in a small town, be prepared to run into some of
your neighbors in Hubbard, Oregon, the setting for this fresh first
novel. If you haven’t, GOING TO BEND will give you a marvelous peek
into life in a community of fewer than 5,000 souls.
lush details, this great big slice-of-life story has characters who
may surprise you, especially in how much you care about them. But
there’s more than just a likable --- and spunky --- cast. Diane
Hammond’s prose sparkles with wonderful sentences like, “Rose’s life
was gliding by in a lovely blur of good soup and purposeful days and
warm uncomplicated nights with Christie. A good life.”
and Gordon, a brother and sister team, move up from LA to this
tiny Pacific village. They want to escape the feverish rat race that
is the city. While planning to open Souperior’s, a restaurant
focusing on --- you guessed it --- soups, they hold a contest for
recipes. The grand-prize winner will be offered a job. For Rose
Bundy and Petie Coolbaugh, making soup has always been a way to
survive. Perpetually short on money, for them it meant the
difference between eating and going hungry. It is their recipe that
comes out on top and that lands them a job they split between them,
a job they sorely need. Now they find themselves humming along,
creating chowders, minestrones, purees and anything that involves
broths, veggies, meats and fish.
This may not sound like the
makings of a great novel, but the characters take over and live on
these pages. Petie has a husband, two kids about as opposite as salt
and pepper, and childhood baggage even her best friend knows nothing
about. Rose lives alone with her daughter, except for when the
fishing boats dock for a while and her fellow comes to stay for a
Hubbard is a small town; everyone knows everyone
--- and everyone’s business. But the new business in town struggles.
Small towns don’t like newcomers. They carry a grudge against
outsiders. It will take Rose and Petie’s greatest effort to keep
themselves employed, which means keeping Souperior’s running.
Meanwhile, other star players, like Petie’s deadbeat husband, are
hanging out doing what townsfolk do: dropping by the tavern,
haggling for items automotive, and helping neighbors. And there’s
the inveterate ladies’ man, flashing his impish grin and showing a
side of himself even his insanely jealous wife never knew
The people are so real, I wondered how the author
had come to know some of the same people I did. She gave them heart.
She gave them flaws. They come with an attitude, and a lot of love.
If this is indeed a first novel, Diane Hammond is going to blow the
socks off the fiction world. This is a spectacular entry into the
genre. The glimpse into the lives of Rose Bundy and Petie Coolbaugh
is so authentic (right down to the “gargantuan pink wooden
butterflies with three-foot wingspans nailed to the siding”), I
could smell the soup. —Kate Ayers
© Copyright 2004, Bookreporter.com. All rights