We’ve been anticipating this for some time, having been apprised of the literary pregnancy by the Doiron family early on. We’re friends with Paul’s family via my wife’s relationship with them before she and I met, and we’ve maintained contact through such traditional channels as holiday cards, attendance at family events, and the like.
I did meet Paul years ago (I doubt he’ll recall) and recognized him as one of those tortured/blessed souls who would always and evermore write, write, write.
We knew he was laboring in the vineyards of Down East: The Magazine of Maine. Then suddenly, we got the news that he’d signed a three-book deal with Minotaur. Not long after, we see that not only has the first book emerged, but that Publisher’s Weekly has given it a starred review. The news may have been sudden, but the success certainly was not. A great story of persistence in the face of adversity. We’re pleased and happy for him and everyone around him.
As for The Poacher’s Son, it’s quite a trek through the diminishing wilderness of Maine. Mike Bowditch, rookie ranger, has chosen a career as a professional guardian of the environment, but things aren’t going all that well. He’s split with his girl. A big land developer is gobbling up some pristine territory. One of the developer’s lawyers and a cop are murdered, and Mike’s fugitive father is not only accused of the murder but pretty much judged and convicted in absentia by all and sundry.
Weirdly, Mike finds himself defending the innocence of a man he scarcely knew, could never please, and certainly never liked much. But hey, you can’t dis the dad, right? His crusade endangers not only a number of his relationships and his standing in the community, but his further employment as a professional guardian of the environment. With all this working against him, you’d think he’d take it easy, be careful whose toes he stepped on. But nope. And the complications that ensue are often as much of his own making as of the surrounding hostiles.
Doiron tells his story with economy and grace, and he guides us skillfully toward a deliciously twisty ending. I don’t get surprised much by these things, but I was surprised by this one. And the best thing about the twist is that it is that it isn’t an author-manipulation, but a discovery that emerges from the characters and events.
Many in the MFA crowd like to divide books into action-driven, character-driven, and voice driven works. (There are probably a few other drivers around I don’t know about.). To them, The Poacher’s Son would be labeled as action-driven. To me, The Poacher’s Son is proof that such labeling is artificial and silly. The action that “resolves” this book is dictated by the characters and their relationships. So you can’t tell the dancer from the dance, and that’s the way it should be. I’d comment more on the actual relationships, and there’s plenty to discuss, especially on the subject of father and son. But that might take some of the joy away for those of you who have yet to taste this treat. Thanks for a fun trek, Paul. Looking forward to the next up in the series.