Michigan has been home to Jim Harrison for most of his life, & here he has written the long-awaited novel of his homeland, the story of a family torn apart & a man engaged in profound reckoning with the damage scarred into the American soil. An epic tale that pits a son against the legacy of his family's desecration of the earth, and his own father's more personal violations, True North is a beautiful and moving novel that speaks to the territory in our hearts that calls us back to our roots. The scion of a family of wealthy timber barons, David Burkett has grown up with a father who is a malevolent force, and a mother made vague and numb by alcohol and pills. He and his sister Cynthia, a firecracker who scandalizes the family at fourteen by taking up with the son of their Finnish-Native American gardener, are mostly left to make their own way. As David comes to adulthood, he realizes he must come to terms with his forefathers' rapacious destruction of the woods of Michigan's Upper Peninsula, as well as with the working people who made their wealth possible. In the story of the Burketts, Jim Harrison has given us a family tragedy of betrayal and amends, joy and grief, and justice for the worst of our sins. True North is a bravura performance from one of our finest writers, accomplished with deep humanity, humor, and redemptive soul.
Father was wailing. I deduced from the morning sun and moving flotsam that we were drifting slowly southwards with the force of an unknown current. He slumped on the back seat of the wooden rowboat and I leaned forward grabbing his shirt to keep him from pitching overboard. Both of his hands had been severed at the wrist and the stumps had been tightly bound with duct tape. His normally withered forearms now bulged with an unsightly color. When they had pushed us out from the estuary on a falling tide before dawn I had only been given one oar. When I clearly noted this at first light the humor wasn't lost on me. I was equipped to row in circles with my left hand. The thumb of my right hand was missing and the pain lessened when I raised it high. In the early light I had seen a green or loggerhead turtle and took my thumb from my pocket pitching it toward the beast but the turtle had submerged in alarm misunderstanding my good intentions. By midmorning the shore had arose and I could see the coast line south of Veracruz. The current was carrying us toward Alvarado. My father woke from his latest faint. His face was too bruised for clear speech and now rather than wailing he bleated. His eyes made his request clear and I pushed him gently over the back of the boat, and it was quite some time before he completely sunk. I would study the stinking fish scales and bits of dried viscera on the boat's bottom and then look up and he would still be there floating in the current. And then finally I was pleased to see him sink. What a strange way to say goodbye to your father.
WHAT THE EXPERTS ARE SAYING:
"True North is full-meal Harrison, weaving together philosophy, religion, sex, sensuality, a love of animals, poetry & food, and an elegiac appreciation for the natural world...The many pleasures embedded within make True North another necessary installment in the work of one of the finest writers working today."
--Mary Ann Swinn, The Seattle Times
"A great achievement...David Burkett is part Holden Caulfield, part Stephen Dedalus...In a country created on the premise of escape & reinvention, there is no real freedom, and the dreams of one generation are often a curse for the next. Such is the peril of becoming an American...The real effort, Harrison implies, is to act in spite of those forces, correct for deviance, and find our own true north."
--Thomas Curwen, Los Angeles Times Book Review
"A coming-of-age-story, a familial saga of estrangement...a slow-burning revenge tragedy...There is no denying the urgency of Harrison's storytelling."
--Anthony Quinn, The New York Times Book Review
"A homecoming of sorts, as much for Harrison the writer as for his narrator...In these pages is a mind that beats like a heart, diastole & systole, in dealing with the verity of it all."
--Art Winslow, Chicago Tribune
"The genius of Mr. Harrison, it seems to me, is that his characters possess a uniquely human & endearing clumsiness as well as a gracefulness in the way they inhabit the sharp & sometimes exuberantly felt physical world & the restless (though also at times exuberant) realm of spirit, True North, with its tensions, tenderness, wisdom, violence & salvation, is a truly American novel. There is grace & redemption--sometimes earned, other times merely bestowed or observed--on every page."
--Rick Bass, The Dallas Morning News
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Harrison's most recent book is the novel True North. He is also the author of 4 other volumes of novellas,(The Beast God Forgot to Invent, Legends of the Fall, The Woman Lit by Fireflies, & Julip) 7 other novels, (The Road Home, Wolf, A Good Day to Die, Farmer, Warlock, Sundog, & Dalva) 10 collections of poetry, including most recently Braided Creek, with Ted Kooser, and The Shape of the Journey: New & Collected Poems; a children's book, and 3 works of nonfiction (Just Before Dark, The Raw & the Cooked: Adventures of a Roving Gourman and the memoir Off to the Side.. The winner of a Nat'l Endowment for the Arts grant, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and the Spirit of the West Award from the Mountains & Plains Booksellers Association, his work has been published in 22 languages.