Two buddies and band members who left their hometown and became successful in the larger world reunite with the two who stayed, married high-school sweethearts and melded into small town life. But wait, lives are not that simple, and leave it to Carlson to delve into the depths and show us why. Return to Oakpine is heartbreaking and wholly reassuring at the same time.— Susan Lang
August 2013 Indie Next List
“30 years after the heyday of their high school band 4 men reconvene in their hometown of Oakpine, Wyoming. One has returned to live out his last days and stands as focal point as all the men & those close to them examine how they've lived and how they come to understand what fulfills them. Carlson has written a beautiful, beautiful novel full of soulful searching, gentle wisdom and a bit of clarity gained around the price paid to acknowledge one's weaknesses yet still strive to love. By the end it made me weep.”
— Sheryl Cotleur, Copperfield's Books, Sebastopol, CA
" A] moving novel about friendship, forgiveness, and mortality." --Nancy Pearl, NPR's Morning Edition Ron Carlson has always been a critics' favorite, but Return to Oakpine shows the acclaimed writer at his finest. In this tender and nostalgic portrait of western American life, Carlson tells the story of four middle-aged friends who once played in a band while growing up together in small-town Wyoming. One of them, Jimmy Brand, left for New York City and became an admired novelist. Thirty years later in 1999, he's returned to die. Craig Ralston and Frank Gunderson never left Oakpine; Mason Kirby, a Denver lawyer, is back on family business. Jimmy's arrival sends the other men's dreams and expectations, realized and deferred, whirling to the surface. And now that they are reunited, getting the band back together might be the most essential thing they ever do.
About the Author
Ron Carlson is the author of five story collections and four novels, most recently The Signal. 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.