Saturday, May 28, 2016
Border Songs by Jim Lynch
I like books that are situated in places I know about topics I am familiar with. Border Songs is such a book. I think it will appeal to people who live in the Pacific Northwest, the Vancouver area and Fraser Valley, or anyone who has crossed the Canada/U.S. border. That's quite a broad audience for this novel by award winning Washington State author, Jim Lynch.
The main character is Brandon Vanderkool, the son of a dairy farmer turned U.S. Border Patrol agent. Brandon is an unlikely individual for Border Patrol service. He is a large, physically able man, but has a gentler side for nature. He is especially adept at bird identification, counting his encounters daily. While Brandon takes his job seriously, he is often distracted by the sight or song of an intriguing specimen as he wanders the farms and forests along the border. During some of these diversions, he encounters and captures unsuspecting smugglers and illegal immigrants.
Brandon's father Norm runs a struggling dairy farm right on the border. This week I drove Zero Avenue, and you can see that all there is between our two countries is a shallow ditch and marking posts. On the U.S. side is Boundary Road, the address for Norm's farm. Wayne, a retired professor who is trying to reinvent Edison's light bulb, lives across the ditch in Canada. Wayne's other favourite pastime is yelling at Norm about "Americans" and their political differences.
Wayne's daughter Madeline, a cross-border childhood friend of Brandon's, gets involved with the marijuana trade. One dark night she loads up her racing Laser sailboat and smuggles a package across the open bay to Semiahmoo Spit. Wayne (mine that is) was intrigued by what seemed to be an easy to manage sailboat, so he did some investigation and lots of pouring over copies of Buy, Sell and Trade. But after two summers, he traded it in for an easier boat to learn to sail in. Goes to show you the power of books.
Border Songs has lots of twists, turns and U.S. vs. Canadian humour. It was an enjoyable read for me, especially because I knew a bit about it's setting, people and issues. If you do read it, let me know what you think. -- Margy