Navigate a Northwest family saga

Katie Kowalski,
Posted 2/28/17

This year’s Community Read selection sailed into Port Townsend Public Library director Melody Sky Eisler’s heart, and she hopes everyone from boatbuilders to story lovers also get swept into Jim …

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Navigate a Northwest family saga


This year’s Community Read selection sailed into Port Townsend Public Library director Melody Sky Eisler’s heart, and she hopes everyone from boatbuilders to story lovers also get swept into Jim Lynch’s novel “Before the Wind” this month.

“I love quirky, character-driven novels that have a strong sense of place,” Eisler said, and “Before the Wind’ is just that.

The critically acclaimed family saga set in Seattle offers poignant characters, rich descriptions of sailing and boatbuilding, and is sprinkled with magic realism, Eisler said.

“I’ve read it twice and I just adore it.”

The library selected the Olympia author’s 2016 book for its 11th annual Community Read, a monthlong program designed to promote closer ties among community members through the shared experience of reading, sharing and discussing ideas and topics generated by a book.

The program kicks off March 2, featuring a full slate of events offered in collaboration with local organizations, including two chances for the community to meet the author along with many maritime-related events. “We’re hoping that we get a lot of our maritime community involved,” Eisler said.

“We could probably have done three months’ worth of programming with this book.”


Polly Lyle, a first-time Community Read selection committee member also read the book twice, something she said was rare for her. She said she enjoyed it both times.

“The author tells a compelling story about a family and sailing, which is richly complemented by creative details,” said Lyle, who curates the Art in the Library shows. While she initially wondered if some details, such as those about sailing, might “bog the story down for landlubbers like me,” Lyle said those details only enriched the story.

“He’s just a terrific writer,” said Eisler of Lynch, who was a journalist before becoming a fiction writer.

Lynch grew up in the Seattle area and graduated from the University of Washington before traveling around the country as a newspaper reporter and researcher. After returning to the Northwest, he wrote for Spokane’s Spokesman-Review, Portland’s Oregonian and The Seattle Times, and received national reporting honors. His novels, of which “Before the Wind” is fourth, have earned international praise.

Eisler said that when she told him his book had been chosen, Lynch emailed her back, expressing his gratitude and noting that he looked forward to meeting local readers. “From my vantage, it’d be hard to invent a better venue for explaining and presenting this book than Port Townsend,” wrote Lynch, who visits Port Townsend every year and has a deep love for the community.

“One of the joys of the Community Read is getting that quality experience with the author,” Eisler said, noting that last year’s author was unable to attend, and that many said they missed having the author attend in person.


The community can get involved through reading the book, attending a book discussion or going to any of the events taking place through March.

On Thursday, March 2, the library is partnering with Port Townsend Film Festival to present a free screening of “Sea Gypsies: The Far Side of the World,” which was a film festival favorite last year. The film’s director, Nicholas “Nico” Edwards, who was unable to make it to the film festival, is to attend the screening, Eisler said.

Other programs throughout the month are offered in collaboration with the Northwind Arts Center, Key City Public Theatre and the Northwest Maritime Center/Race to Alaska.

One event Eisler is particularly excited about is “Author! Author!” which is a salon-style evening that brings together Lynch and local author Erica Bauermeister to talk about writing styles and process March 26. It’s the only event that’s not free, as it’s a benefit for Friends of the Port Townsend Public Library and Northwind Arts Center, which is hosting the evening.

Friends of the Library is the primary sponsor of Community Read, along with Kris Nelson’s family of restaurants: Sirens Pub, Alchemy Bistro, and The Old Whiskey Mill, Eisler said.

The Friends raise funds through book sales, with one planned for Saturday, March 4. All funds raised support the Port Townsend Public Library and programs such as Community Read.

“Our Friends are incredible,” Eisler said.

The monthlong program culminates in a “Meet the Author” event March 27 at Port Townsend High School, where the community can have a chance to hear Lynch talk and have books signed.

Lynch’s other books also are be for sale at the event, Eisler said, noting, “Once you read one of Jim Lynch’s books, you will want to read all of his books.”


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