Book Review: Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

This novel by the author of “One Flew Over the Cukoo’s Nest” has been aptly described as the Moby Dick of the Pacific Northwest. This book is a sweeping picture of a small logging town, and it is a fascinating read as the author builds tension around a diverse cast of characters who are true to life.

The books plot is centered on the Stamper family, a hardworking family of loggers whose motto is “never give a inch.” The fictional logging town of Wakonda, OR, goes on strike, but the Stampers continue to log because they are under contract. One of the book’s main conflicts comes from the anger this strikebusting causes in Wakonda against the Stamper family. The book’s other great conflict come from resentment between the half brothers Leland and Hank Stamper.

The plot of the novel is slow, and the action takes time to build. The author takes many chapters for description, character development, and back story. The best part of the book is the cast of secondary characters, who are fully developed and very authentic.

This book is about 650 pages and takes some patience to read. Reading it is like watching an art is paint a mural. From a distance, you see a very large picture. As you get closer, you see that every part of the large picture is intricately detailed, and that the large picture is made of many smaller pictures. This book is a portrait of America in general and small town America in particular, painting a picture of the American spirit, the human condition, revenge, jealousy, greed, suffering, and perseverance.

I highly recommend this book if you are a patient reader who likes experimental writing styles and chainsaws.

PS Last summer I drove up 101 from San Fran to Oregon . It is a beautiful drive through the redwoods along the coast. In Reeds port, OR, I headed inland towards the interstate on the road along the river. On the way, I saw a house that I am certain must have been the inspiration for the Stamper house. The stubborn Stampers built their house on al peninsula in the river where they were constantly reinforcing the banks to stop the constant erosion, and I saw a house exactly as described in the book.

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2 Responses to Book Review: Sometimes a Great Notion by Ken Kesey

  1. jasmin says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest. Maybe when I have the time I will read this one.

    • thesvenster says:

      It is a lot different than OFOTCN. It is his second book, and I think it is actually better. Aparantly by his 3rd book he had descended so far into drug use that it wasn’t really readable.

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