The Port Townsend Public Library’s annual Community Read returns this March for its 15th year with the novel “Whiskey When We’re Dry” by John Larison, and it’s bringing …
The Port Townsend Public Library’s annual Community Read returns this March for its 15th year with the novel “Whiskey When We’re Dry” by John Larison, and it’s bringing a full month of events with it.
Keith Darrock, library manager in charge of public and technical services, said the Community Read books have been selected through various means over the years, from surveys conducted through the city to select committees of library staffers, who were the ones to choose this year’s book.
The Community Read dates back to former library director Theresa Percy, who modeled the program on similar collective reads of the same book run by other cities and communities, although Darrock touted the Port Townsend Public Library’s Community Read as “more robust” than others, given that its itinerary of events spans nearly an entire month.
“The Port Townsend Library Foundation is buying 500 paperback copies of the book to give away, while the Friends of the Port Townsend Library fund the speakers and other aspects of the events,” Darrock said.
Darrock also noted that the library attempts to alternate between male and female authors, as well as between fiction and non-fiction books.
“We’d never had a Western novel before,” Darrock said. “We wanted a book that a lot of different people would like, including people who don’t necessarily always use our library. And by selecting books whose authors live and write in the broad Pacific Northwest, we’re able to host them for a talk as the grand finale of the Community Read, since we wouldn’t be able to pay to fly somebody out from New York.”
Darrock described “Whiskey When We’re Dry” as a compellingly challenging book, with unique and evocative descriptions of its characters and locales.
“It’s not necessarily an easy book to read,” Darrock said, as he praised the richness that Larison lent the characters’ voices. “The story itself is a struggle, in that not everything works out for the characters. But the language he uses is something else.”
Darrock summarized the novel as centering around a young woman in the 1880s who finds herself surviving “hardscrabble” troubles and adventures after she’s orphaned, as she disguises herself as a man, employs her gift for sharpshooting and seeks out her outlaw brother.
“Along the way, it deals with very contemporary issues of gender identity, racial discrimination and sexuality, but it still feels like a true Zane Grey Western,” Darrock said. “It’s a cool book.”
The limited number of free copies of the book will be available on a first-come, first-served basis at the library, while additional copies will be available for two-week loans, or for purchase at the Imprint Bookstore.
Free community discussion groups for “Whiskey When We’re Dry” are scheduled for the following dates, times and locations:
• Monday, March 2, at 2 p.m. in the Port Townsend Public Library Learning Center, a.k.a. the “Pink House.”
• Tuesday, March 10, at 6 p.m. in the Keg & I on 1291 Chimacum Road.
• Wednesday, March 18, at 2 p.m. in the Old Whiskey Mill on 1038 Water St.
• Tuesday, March 24, at 1 p.m. in Velocity Coffee on 431 Water St.
Brochures with discussion points and questions, as well as listings of related free special events, are also available at the library, and those events culminate in Larison appearing in person at the Northwest Maritime Center on Thursday, March 26, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.