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The Big Both Ways Paperback – May 1 2008


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 350 pages
  • Publisher: Alaska Northwest Books (May 1 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0882407325
  • ISBN-13: 978-0882407326
  • Product Dimensions: 21.4 x 14.3 x 2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 340 g
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #189,564 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. In this gripping tale of survival, betrayal and murder set in the Pacific Northwest in 1935 from Straley (Cold Water Burning), Slip Wilson is just trying to find work, food and a little justice when he hooks up with a bottle-blonde, Ellie Hobbes, who drags him into her edgy, ragtag life. At the last minute, Ellie, a notorious red union organizer who faces mounting problems with antiunion forces, and her young niece hop aboard the same rickety boat Slip is escaping on that's traveling from Seattle to Juneau. The odd trio barely catches a breath as weather, hunger, a Seattle homicide detective and a revenge-seeking gang of thugs hound them all the way up the Inside Passage. Ellie isn't big on explanations, so Slip isn't sure until nearly the end of their journey if she's a heroine or a scoundrel. Straley's beautifully understated narrative, vivid sense of place and unapologetic, unadorned characters make this a riveting, unpredictable ride. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Review

"Fortunately for those of us who love a tall tale, well told, with just enough mystery and local flora, fauna and history to catch our eye, Straley takes his own advice [write what you know]." -- Ron Judd "Seattle Times"

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 24 reviews
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
The Best Straley Yet June 3 2009
By Warlen Bassham - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
John Straley is one of my favorite authors, ever.

I was hooked by The Woman Who Married a Bear. I loved The Curious Eat Themselves. I've read every word he's ever had published in book form, and have a hard time waiting between books.

This last wait was the worst. It stretched on forever.

It was worth it.

This one is the best yet.

We lose Cecil Younger, but we gain four fascinating characters that we'll never forget. Five, if you count the bird.

Slip is a logger who quits when a friend of his dies high in a tree. He is going to 'retire' to a quiet life of farming. Or so he thinks.

In reality, his life is going to spiral around and down like something gross being flushed down a toilet. Every time he tries to escape the latest horrific event, everything just gets worse.

Ellie is his love interest, if you can call it that. He's attracted to her, but is also more than a little scared of her. It's more fascination than love, but just as powerful. She gets him into new legal jams twice as fast as he can get out of the last jam. [Death follows her, and therefore Slip, like a lonely puppy.]

Ellie's fetching niece, Annabelle, helps keep him interested, as in some strange way does Annabelle's bird, a cockatiel named Buddy.

A Seattle detective named George is after all of them, because he is intent on bringing Ellie and Slip to justice, not much caring what happens to the kid and the bird.

That's all I'm going to say about plot, because the story line, while strong, is not what makes this book 'cook.' What lifts it above mere mystery is Straley's magnificent style, his keen insight into what makes characters tick, or not, and his knack for grabbing us where we live emotionally and never letting go.

In the end, what matters is not who is or who is not guilty of murders galore, but who is or is not truly human. That's always been true in Straley, and this time around it's truer than ever.

I stand in awe.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
Straley better than ever May 11 2008
By M. Wheeless - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
With this book Straley has proven he can 'change horses' and still ride. Or, in this case, write. Although I will miss his Cecil Younger character, I found a whole new slew of characters to like in this new book. Setting it in 1935 is unique because Alaska barely existed in the eyes of the world prior to 1941 and the outbreak of WWII. The characters in this book, the misfits and the people they run into on their escape up the Southeast coast of Alaska are so 'real', I felt like I knew them all. People credit the gold miners with 'settling' Alaska but it was every bit the others as well, the bartenders, storekeepers, cannery workers, fishermen, and loggers, the everyday folks who people Straley's books who really pioneered Alaska. Hats off, John. It was a great read!! Keep 'em coming!
9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
A great read and a great ride April 8 2008
By Dewey - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
Once again, John Straley takes you into the misty, wild realm of Southeast Alaska in a way that few authors can. This time it's with a new cast of characters easily as rich and interesting as the old crew of Cecil, Todd and the rest. Straley fills a leaky dory with a cargo of innocence, strength, tenderness and hope then sets it on a journey as unpredictable as the waters it travels. A clever mix of mystery, action, history and heart, this story will pull you along with each stroke of the oars and each stroke of Straley's masterful pen. I loved this book.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Well Written Alaskan Adventure Lets the Reader Feel Like They are Right There for the Whole Journey Sept. 4 2010
By James N Simpson - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The Big Both Ways is a 1935 period piece, set in Seattle, the Alaskan panhandle and the waters and coastline of British Columbia that separates the two. The descriptions of what is going on around the main characters from other people to the wildlife encountered is very well written and easily conjures up the image of the setting in the reader's mind. Plot is a little unrealistic at times but, hey it's fiction and it allows the story to work after all.

Basic plot revolves around two fugitives on the run from Seattle bound for Alaska. Slippery Wilson didn't know Ellie Hobbs until a couple of days before fleeing to Alaska. When he quite his job in a logging camp and came across her broken down car he had no idea she had a dead body in the boot (trunk). He also didn't know she'd bring a heap of corrupt union trouble on him, or that she had a young girl named Annabelle with a yellow Australian pet bird in her care. Throw in miners strikes, killer whales, porpoises, a brothel, a Seattle cop with his own household problems and a lot of other interesting developments, and you end with a great read. This was my first John Straley novel, it won't be my last!
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
You're lucky if you haven't read "Cold Storage, Alaska" yet March 11 2014
By Richard T. Mahoney - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
About half way through "The Big Both Ways," I began to wish it wasn't so long. When I got to the end, I was hoping it would not end. I was sort of sad that Straley had not been like a 19th Century Russian author and written a 1500 page opus. But then I realized that I had read more because I had read "Cold Storage, AK" also by Straley. "The Big Both Ways" was written after "Cold Storage," but it tells some of the story leading to "Cold Storage." So read them in that order if you're just diving in. "The Big Both Ways" is a wonderful book that is much more than a story about what happened to three people traveling north from Seattle on a small boat. It deals with crime, punishment (there are those Russian authors again), loyalty, devotion to cause, and the power of optimism. It also deals with politics and feminism. I found all these issues dealt with in an open, honest, and non-judgmental way. But perhaps I am wrong there. The author does pass some judgments and they are very clear. I think he gets all of them right. As in "Cold Storage" Straley displays his mastery of building characters who are interesting, challenging, and a bit weird. Indeed it might be argued that the weirdness of the characters is what makes them so real and what is really the unifying theme of the book (and of "Cold Storage"). The theme, as I see it, is that life is totally unpredictable and even if you live the best possible life, it is possible to lose, but if you do lose it's better than winning the wrong way. And sometimes you will win. And then you can reflect on some of the strange and perhaps weird things you did and that you saw others do, and you take pride in your effort to do it right. Perhaps that is the definition of justice.

The book is particularly commendable and good because its two strongest characters are women (actually a woman and girl - but a girl with all the wisdom of an adult). That is quite a feat when one thinks of the really harsh challenges of Alaska and of the many Alaska books and histories dominated by men. Congratulations to Straley.

But I want to ask Straley a simple little question. Is "Cold Storage" modeled after "Elfin Cove?" I'll bet a good freshly caught Halibut steak dinner it is (with a dessert of rhubarb pie).

This is a great book. Read it (and "Cold Storage").

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