Jonathan Raymond The Half Life: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9781582344485

The Half Life: A Novel

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9781582344485: The Half Life: A Novel
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A dazzling debut novel about two friendships separated by generations but bound together by a dark mystery.

Cookie Figowitz is the cook for a party of volatile fur trappers trekking through the Oregon Territory in the 1820s, desperate to find their way to the newly created Hudson Bay Company before their meager supplies run out. As he forages for food one evening with the hopes of placating the increasingly restless men, Cookie stumbles over Henry Brown, a man on the run from violent Russians looking to settle an old score. Cookie takes Henry in, hiding him from the trappers, and the two begin an unlikely friendship that will take them from the virgin territory of the West all the way to China and back again.

Tina Plank is a teenager who has been unhappily transplanted to a Pacific Northwest commune in the 1980s. The only other girl her age within five miles is Trixie Volterra, whose troubled past only adds to her allure. Thrown together by circumstance, the two become fast friends, and are soon hard at work trying to make an elaborate movie on a shoestring budget. When, in the midst of filming, two skeletons are unearthed on the property, the lives of Cookie and Henry, Tina and Trixie converge in unexpected, startling ways.

With extraordinary power and grace, The Half-Life maps the complicated terrain of friendship, illuminating the odd pleasures and inevitable heartaches that bind us together.

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About the Author:

Jonathan Raymond was born in the Bay Area, grew up in Portland, and attended Swarthmore College. He was an editor at Plazm magazine and received his M.F.A. from New School University in New York City. He currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. The Half-Life is his first book.

From Publishers Weekly:

Friendship is the theme of this ambitious and assured debut novel, which is set in Oregon and spans a hundred years of change in the region. In the 1820s, Cookie is a young man employed by a roughneck party of fur trappers as their cook. With food supplies running low, the mood is grim; on a foraging expedition Cookie discovers the bedraggled Henry, who is hiding from a band of murderous Russians, and stows him away in the chow wagon. After the party successfully reaches Fort Vancouver, the two shack up together in the woods, and Henry dreams up the get-rich scheme of traveling to China to sell castoreum oil, which they extract from beavers. In an alternating parallel narrative, set in the 1980s, two teenage girls living on a commune outside of Portland also form an alliance. Tina, a California transplant, bonds with Trixie, a girl with a troubled past. Matters become complicated on the commune when two skeletons are found on the property, setting off a political tug of war between forensic scientists and members of a local Indian tribe. As the two narratives alternateâ€"Cookie and Henry run into trouble in China, while Tina and Trixie scrimp and save to produce an amateur filmâ€"Raymond carefully probes the delicate imbalances that develop in both friendships. The synchronicity of the two stories is subtly engineered and never belabored; convergences are balanced by some unexpected divergences. Whether chronicling the hardscrabble culture of settlers in new territory or the discontent with sprawling overdevelopment generations later, Raymond supplies a wealth of detail about the Pacific Northwest, making plain both the rewards and sacrifices of progress. When tragedy strikes for both sets of friends, it feels as natural as the landscape, surely and deftly closing Raymond's circle of ambiguity, loss, loyalties and love.
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Jonathan Raymond
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