Laconic Love

Book Book Review, Title Monument Road, Author Charlie Quimby, Rating 4.5,

Monument Road

Charlie Quimby

Book Review

It was a pleasure to soak in the deep water that is this novel. Charlie Quimby brought back alive a world I have had only episodic contact with in my life: small towns in the far country, where as a teenager, I spent successive summers, first in a small ranching and farming town in central Oregon, second in an oil and fishing town on the Kenai peninsula in Alaska. It was not as much the characters in this novel, but their sensibility, their rhythms of speech and actions that were recognizable from my past forays beyond the city.

After the pleasure of remembrance past is the pleasure of a deceptively simple love story. It is not one of gushing romance or erotic desires, but one of sharing a full life, of living for the other person, of being deeply grateful that fate brought a companion who could see you for what you are, and who unselfishly did the everyday things that add up to a lifetime of devotion.

-CC-BY-SA 4.0, AirInSky

Colorado National Monument. Attrib: AirInSky, CC-BY-SA 4.0.


It is a story of an unconscious quest and a belated discovery, beginning with the final days of Inetta, dying of cancer, as she gives her husband Leonard a last cryptic gift: To spread her ashes at her favorite vista exactly one year after her death. His journey to that day and that place, to the meaning of the quest, forms the heart of the novel.

The story’s pace is slow, mimicking the surface of rural life, but misleading – patience on the readers part is highly rewarded. Many characters are fleshed out with their thoughts and actions and interactions, resembling the great 19th century Russian novels, albeit at shorter length. The fierce independence expected in this world is leavened by many acts of help and kindness. At the same time, the pain and damage caused by misreading one another or through unkind or malevolent acts is chronicled. Yet here even the dishonest have moments of clarity and honesty.

Quimby’s writing is direct like Hemingway’s, with mostly simple words, but not simple language or simple thoughts. It is perhaps a different kind of simple than Hemingway – a rural hard-won simple, laconic and spare. There are phrases that bring a wry smile of recognition, phrases that pull the reader back for a second or third reading, each reading drawing another picture, bringing another understanding.

Thanks to David Wilson for his hearty recommendation.

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