Three Sides Water

Written by Peter Donahue
Review by Eileen Charbonneau

Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula is what the short novels in the collection Three Sides Water have in common. It travels from a 1925-set harrowing, suspenseful tale of a woman’s assault and its lifelong aftermath, to a 1970 coming-of-age tale set in the waning days of a juvenile detention center, to a present-day wry, comic look at one man’s obsession with… wait for it: Bing Crosby.

In On Rialto Beach, Marguerite is half of an identical twin set who has entered show business via the flim-flam performances of her mystic act boss. While on vacation in his remote luxury camp, Marguerite experiences the delight of drawing in a treehouse and the company of visiting silent screen idol Harold Lloyd. But she is also brutally attacked by a hired man. The summer and its secrets haunt her.

In At Fort Worden, readers meet chronic delinquent Avery, who spends his last year as a ward of the state. He runs away from his detention center, experiences his first love with fellow inmate Brenda and friendship with a transgender teen. Through them he awakens to the tumultuous world at large.

Finally, Out of Shelton follows Chris, who has been brought up by his grandmother in the image of the singing star Bing Crosby, and finds his own identity submerging into Der Bingle’s, warts and all. It proves promising for his entertainment career but wreaks havoc on his love and family life. The pull of place comes to his rescue, along with some dosing with Anafranil.

Though widely different in tone and genre, these three short novels unite in their compelling setting. Each shares the pull of place: this spectacular corner of the continent. A delightful tour de force. Highly recommended.