A conversation with Karl Marlantes, author of "Deep River"

Chris Schluep on July 17, 2019
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deepriver.jpgKarl Marlantes has written the Great Pacific Northwest novel. Set in the early 20th century, Deep River features Finnish immigrants, endless resources, and an effort to establish workers' rights. I have given this novel to several people, and the consensus is I never knew a book about unions could be so enjoyable. To be fair, it's not just about unions—but I did ask Marlantes whether he had any concerns around writing about union activity and keeping it interesting (which it is). You can see his answer in the video below.

Also posted is the review I wrote when we picked Deep River as a Best Book of the Month. This is one of my favorite books of the year: it's a big, sweeping story that is built around characters. And Marlantes is a fine character himself, which I hope comes through in our interview. Enjoy.



To date, Karl Marlantes is best known for his novel Matterhorn, which is a classic in Vietnam War literature. In the masterful Deep River, he is writing about a different place and time—but admirers of Matterhorn will recognize Marlantes’s gift for telling a sweeping, consuming epic through the day-to-day experiences of his characters. Escaping famine and Russian oppression, three Finnish siblings head for the United States in the early 20th century. They each find their way to the Pacific Northwest, a place of astounding natural resources, and there they begin to knit themselves into the mostly-Scandinavian community built up around those resources. There is Ilmari, who becomes a farmer and a blacksmith, and who dreams of starting a church. There is Matti, who becomes a logger. And there is Aino, the sister who may possess the most grit and determination of any of them, and who emerges as a union organizer in a place where work often meant low pay and the constant threat of death or dismemberment. Deep River is a place where you hear the trees thundering to the ground and you can see the 150 pound salmon working their way upstream. It is also a finely-hewn portrait of people’s lives in an era when this country was figuring out what it stood for. You could call Deep River the great Pacific Northwest novel, but it’s even more than that. --Chris Schluep, Amazon Book Review





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