July 10, 2005
Special to The Denver Post
A small town's big take on life
As she did in her fine debut novel, "Going to Bend," Hammond examines the limits of friendship and love in the small town of Hubbard, Ore. Here, sport and commercial fishing boats are moored in the small harbor, Highway 101 is the only through street, and everyone knows everyone else.
Bunny Near [sic], a waitress in the diner, and Anita, once a local beauty contest winner, have been best friends since high school. Nineteen years ago, Bunny was a single mom of a 4-year-old daughter when she met Hack Near [sic], a Vietnam War vet who had been on the road for longer than he could remember. They married, and life has been good to them. Hack is a successful salesman at a nearby Ford dealership. They live in a nice house. But Bunny suspects Hack is cheating on her again.
By contrast, Anita and her husband, Bob, who barely get by, are still in love. But Anita worries about him, not so much because of his drinking as the mysterious trips he continues to take. And she wonders how they can manage to care for their granddaughter, whose father has been arrested on drug charges.
Hack enjoys using his charms on the beautiful new saleswoman who speaks fluent Italian and has an MBA from Stanford. But it is his nightmares about his lost sister, Katy, that distracts his life. Back in the dealership's service department, Bob repairs pickups and tells himself everything is fine. He just has a bad cold. The results of the AIDS test that his boyhood friend Warren took aren't in yet.
As the story unfolds, Hammond digs into the past, revealing bad decisions and their consequences, desperate acts of courage, kindness that sometimes is not enough to save or redeem. And woven throughout are insights, sprinkled with humor, on marriage and friendship.
"Homesick Creek" is an honest, beautifully written book.