Karen Fisher

Northwest author Karen Fisher's 2005 debut is literary fiction based loosely on old family documents—not a historical novel, as its setting might lead you to believe. A Sudden Country is a dreamy, ethereal story of two wayward souls who meet by chance during the 1847 Oregon migration, bringing scandal to the dusty trails of covered wagons and tired children. After his Nez Perce wife leaves him for another man and his children die of smallpox, James MacLaren begins the bitter trek to find her in Oregon. During a secret, violent act, MacLaren meets Lucy Mitchell, who is traveling west with her husband and children. The pull between MacLaren and Lucy is instantaneous. If this sounds like the outline for a made-for-TNT Western, Country is executed with much more craft—Fisher's prose is pensive and serious. Once you feel comfortable with her style of storytelling, rich in metaphors and flashbacks, Country is full and wise and not bound by any century. COLLEEN SMITH

Wed., July 29, 7 p.m., 2009

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