Review: Kathleen Dean Moore’s “Piano Tide”

I was lucky enough to review Kathleen Dean Moore’s lyrical and beautifully written Southeast Alaska novel for the Alaska Dispatch, and I must say that I highly, highly recommend to anyone who loves quirky characters, environmental plots, humor and rain-flecked stretches of Alaska landscape.


Here’s the beginning, with a link to the published review:

I knew I was in for a treat when I opened Kathleen Dean Moore’s first novel “Piano Tide” and came across the introduction, where Moore playfully states that the book is fiction, that neither the town nor the characters are real.

“The author stood at her little desk and made them up,” she writes.

How could anyone not become infatuated with Moore after that?

The infatuation quickly deepened. Moore’s writing is dreamy and rhythmic, lulling as the sea, which murmurs in the background of her story. A prize-winning nature writer who resides in Oregon and spends summers on Chichagof Island, Moore doesn’t hold back when it comes to description, and the Southeast Alaska landscape breathes around every page, every character. In fact, the landscape swells to the status of a minor character, forever present, forever waiting in the background until each word, each passage fills with the promise of wind and water and the damp, good smell of the sea.

The story opens with Nora Montgomery, a woman with the eyes of a fish, arriving in Good River Harbor with her dog and a piano. The town, accessible only by ferry, is small enough that everyone knows everyone’s business, everyone’s history, everyone’s secrets, or at least they think they do. But no one knows Nora’s, or what she’s running from, or why she’s lugged a piano out in the middle of nowhere when she can’t seem to play worth a damn.

She soon meets others:

• Lillian, a former prostitute turned successful business owner of Bath ‘n’ Bar, which offers showers, a laundromat and alcoholic drinks;

• Tick, a large orange-haired man with an even larger beard who continually tries and fails to support his family;

• Axel, who owns the town and thinks nothing of stripping the forests for lumber, the rivers for fish; and

 • Davy, Tick’s son, caught between boyhood and manhood and struggling with his love for Axel’s only daughter.

But it’s Kenny who is the hero, and impetus, of this story. Confined to a wheelchair, he wears homemade hats fashioned from squirrel and rat hides, the tails hanging coquettishly down his face as he wheels around the boardwalk, yelling passages from Dostoevsky and scaring the tourists. When he orders two government trappers to remove their Fish and Wildlife jackets and proceeds to shoot the jackets to pieces, it’s hard not to punch a fist in the air and yell, “You go, dude,” but with tears in your eyes because you know the rules of fiction, know that he’s set in motion an act that will lead to his eventual ruin.

Read the rest of the Piano Tide review here.


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