Going to Bend
Lifelong friends Petie Coolbaugh and Rose Bundy laugh, love and try to make ends meet in the "no-account" Oregon coastal fishing town of Hubbard in Hammond's shining first novel. Petie, the mother of two boys, is "small and hard and tight and flammable, like the wick of a candle," while Rose, the single mom of a teenage girl, is "a big soft woman of calm purpose and measurable serenity." They've just started supplying homemade soup for the new cafe in town, Souperior, owned by Nadine and Gordon Erickson, fraternal twins fresh from Southern California. Petie, a scrappy survivor of poverty and an abusive father, is given to spot-on observations: Nadine, is "all nerves, snip and anxiety" and "living proof that some people shouldn't give up smoking." Rose, with her gentle heart and tranquil solidity, has compassion for Nadine and especially for Gordon, who is dying of AIDS. When Gordon gives Rose the opportunity to write a cookbook-which she insists Petie illustrate-the women's lives radically change, as they give expression to their hidden talents and the future seems full of hope and promise. But life is never uncomplicated, and Hammond shines an unwavering light on a group of people who struggle to make do, yet who live their lives and cope with hardship with grace and dignity. Her clean, sharp prose, idiosyncratic dialogue and deep insight into relationships embellish this heartfelt debut.
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