Community Read: ‘Piano Tide’

Novel depicts harbor town similar to PT

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Tucked into the backpack of a cyclist who speeds downtown. Hiding the face of a girl in a coffee shop. Sticking out of the back pocket of a man walking through the boatyard.

Everywhere you go, people are getting lost in a little blue book. They are diving into a world where a small-town activist goes up against the impossible, and then sharing that realm with someone else.

If you’re lucky, you’ll catch the title on the shelves of the library or Imprint Books, and pick up a copy of this year’s Community Read, “Piano Tide,” by Kathleen Dean Moore.

The book becomes instantly familiar to the Port Townsend reader; its rain jackets, ferry landings, and salmon streams place you in a small, fictional Alaskan harbor town not unlike ours.

But soon the reader falls into a drama of an artist’s activism disrupting old ways and old money. Mix in music, art and environmentalism, and you have a book that fits Port Townsend to a tee.

“I read it and I just knew,” said Melody Sky Eisler, director of the Port Townsend Library.

This is the 14th year the library has sponsored a Community Read and the city has named March the official month of reading.

Each year, choosing the book is a different process, Eisler said.

“The last two years we’ve done books by male authors, so we thought wouldn’t it be great if we had a female author,” she said. “We wanted a regional author, and we wanted a novel because last year we did a memoir. People want a book just to fall into and be wrapped up in a wonderful story.”

When one of the library staff suggested “Piano Tide,” Eisler immediately picked up on themes that the community could identify with.

“Seems to me that people who choose to live in harbor towns either want to get as far away from land as possible or as close as possible to the sea,” said Moore. “Most of my characters are simply in love with the ocean, and I would guess that people in Port Townsend are made of the same salt and sail, all lured to the adventure of the sea, the briny smell of it, its way with light.”

A retired professor of philosophy, Moore spends much of her time in Alaska, and is most well-known for her essays on nature.

Throughout the sweeping tale, Moore weaves thought-provoking themes. The heroine’s deep-seated love for protecting the environment provokes discussion, an important quality for a community read.

“The beauty of the community read is that we help to build community through the shared experience of reading and discussing the same book,” Eisler said. “I think books, especially fictional books, give an entry point of discussing challenging, difficult topics in a way that is easy and more palatable than just talking about a non-fiction book.”

The library is providing 300 copies for the public to borrow and pass along. It is also hosting a series of book discussion and related events throughout the month, including a call to life musical performance with the author and pianist Rachelle McCabe at 7 p.m. on March 27 at the Trinity United Methodist Church.

Readers will have a chance to meet Moore at 6:30 p.m. on March 28 at the Port Townsend High School auditorium.

Upcoming Events:

March 14

“Earth Repair Song and Science” with permaculturalist Michael “Skeeter” Pilarski. 7 p.m. at the Carnegie Reading Room

March 16

Story trail for kids and their families. Noon-4 p.m. at Kah Tai Lagoon.

March 21

Dramatic readings of excerpts from “Piano Tide,” by Key City Public Theater. 7:30 p.m. at the Northwind Arts Center.

March 27

“A Call to Life” musical performance, with Kathleen Dean Moore and Rachelle McCabe. 7 p.m. at Trinity United Methodist Church.

March 28

Meet the author. 6:30 p.m. at the Port Townsend High School Auditorium.

March 29

Writer’s workshop. 1 p.m. at the Charles Pink House.

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Bob Gray

Terrific novel. Good choice for community read.

Sunday, March 10