PIANO TIDE by Kathleen Dean Moore
Piano Tide is a beautifully penned novel set in a fictional town along the Alaskan coast. Thanks to the author, Kathleen Dean Moore, the mental picture of the place downloads into your readerly perspective at the first encounter:
From the distance, Good River Harbor looked like a string of gulls flying along the water below the mountain range, or a rim of barnacles just uncovered by the tide. One thing it did not look like was a town, but the town fathers could be forgiven for that. The wilderness was desperately steep; the only place to put a building was on a tidal flat that flooded twice a day. So the worthy fathers raised a boardwalk fifteen feet above high tide, a long wooden pier parallel to the shore, and along its length, built their houses on pilings.
The tiny town's rich ecology epitomizes the sort of location tourists and opportunists are drawn to, and in that element lies the story: a virgin land being raped for its natural resources, its only protection a handful of inhabitants whose jobs and livelihoods depend upon a capitalistic endeavor they've come to hate. It's a brewing storm brought to life by an endearing bunch of characters who include their newest neighbor, Nora, a young woman who steps off the ferry and asks for help moving her piano up and into her new home.
Piano Tide goes beyond providing a good story, it is also a reflection on nature and those of us who strive to protect and preserve what can't be replaced. The descriptions of wildlife and native plants are vividly drawn and presented in remarkable number. The author, Kathleen Dean Moore, is an award-winning naturalist, philosopher, and activist. A triple punch of talent that pays off for readers in this deceptively simple look at the extent we will go for the things we cherish.
Reviewed by Sue Ellis.
Sometimes a cast of characters come along who fit so well into a plot that they seem to exceed even what the author might have hoped for them. There are revelations about personality, ambition, wisdom (or lack of), and the capacity for love. When it's well done, it leads to a genuine acquaintance with what is human in all of us. As I read Piano Tide, I couldn't help but think of Brain Doyle and the good-hearted magic he worked with the folksy characters in his coastal novels, so I wasn't surprised when I read, on the acknowledgment page at closing,
“To Portland writer Brian Doyle, who grins at the mysterious chiming of our novels; we are born, he says, of the same “salt and song.”
Certainly a strong plot is at work, certainly a moral lesson is at stake, and clearly heroes emerge. But to experience it all while we lean back and gratefully breathe in the spirit and tenor of the thing—that's magic to make a writer proud.