Book review: Novel engaging story of man, river
“Charlie’s Pride,” by Dee Hubbard
In “Charlie’s Pride,” Dee Hubbard has crafted a pleasant and engaging story about a man and his enduring, unwavering connection to a river, his home.
Charlie, known locally as Hawk, is born in the Siskiyous in Northern California. That land and its river, the mighty Klamath, are indelibly imprinted on the man. Biracial, Charlie is descended from the Scots-Irish and a people indigenous to the Siskiyous; his heritage profoundly informs Charlie’s worldview and his connection to home yet also ushers a lifelong struggle with his identity and purpose.
As a young boy, Charlie spends long, sunlit afternoons exploring the river, discovering and connecting with his ancestors’ land and stories. Years later, when most men choose to leave home in favor of job security in the cities, Charlie eschews that path and remains on the Klamath, for the soul of the river and the man are one and the same.
Charlie spends backbreaking days hauling loads of timber from the clear-cut ridges of his home, but he is happy in his labor and his ability to support his daughters and his wife, Doreen. But pride gives way to shame in middle age, when Charlie suffers a series of accidents and heartbreaks and no longer possesses the emotional and mental fortitude to excel in the dangerous logging industry.
The only constant for Charlie is his love of the river, and the only ways he finds solace is through fly fishing alone, or conferring with his wife.
Charlie reflects. Since the arrival of Anglos in the Siskiyous, the newcomers have harvested the mountains — first for fur, then for gold, then for timber, then for commercial fish and game — and the legacy of the white newcomers seems always to circle back to a general overuse and exploitation borne of a domineering, utilitarian worldview.
Marijuana cultivation is the latest chapter in this story of squander. Large-scale, illegal marijuana operations hidden deep in the national forest discreetly devour the land, and this new kind of profiteering brings a sense of uneasiness to the neighboring communities.
Unable to find meaningful work that will allow him to stay in his home place, Charlie concedes and gives two years of his life to the marijuana plantations. These two years become the most shameful and lonely of Charlie’s life.
A sudden death in his family, combined with a maturing philosophy that develops with age, ultimately leads Charlie to wage a personal battle against the marijuana plantations. This mission restores his pride, as well as a deep wellspring of hope that the mountains, the trees, the river and the fish, will flourish long after Charlie ceases to live.
In “Charlie’s Pride,” The Klamath becomes a character in its own right. The river serves as reminder that constant change is inevitable and that life tends to run cyclically.
Rich, descriptive language and a strong sense of place are the major strengths of the novel. The author’s knowledge of the flora and fauna of the environment and his own love of place are evident and shine in “Charlie’s Pride.”
Off the Beaten Path will host author Dee Hubbard for a book talk at 6 p.m. Sept. 15.
This book is available at Off the Beaten Path and Bud Werner Memorial Library.
Emily Katzman is manager of Off the Beaten Path.
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