Sep 27, 2017
by Diane McCurdy, Film and Book Reviews
It is fairly obvious even to the casual observer that coastal Sonoma County has a certain cachet. The denizens of west county are a motley crew. There is a merry melange of red-necks, hippies, intellectuals, fishermen and farmers. That they coalesce and come together to console and give comfort to one another in emergency situations seems contradictory but also commendable and amazing. No one is better equipped to explore these complexities than Andrea Granahan who has lived and loved in these northern environs for forty years. An award winning investigative reporter and travel journalist, her breezy style of writing is a delight. Her book, Backstories from the West Edge, consists of sixty-eight vignettes that she has compiled over time. The mini-stories are further sectioned into seven chapters. The amusing remembrances are separated from the sad more profound or poignant ones. A special category is set aside for the memories that are down right weird.
When reading the text it is as if one is sitting with Ms. Granahan with a cup or coffee or a glass of wine and conversationally having a tete a tete with her. She becomes your intimate friend and confidante. Her cast of characters are presented in living color. One of my favorite incidences concerned a tenant who lived on the author's property. He was a discreet marijuana grower. His crop was planted in barrels that were suspended on wires and hoisted up to be hidden in the foliage of the redwood trees. Such ingenuity! We are also informed about a crazy dentist whose past exploits included implanting steel plates into the jaws of fighting dogs and a mysterious woman who wrote bizarre conspiracy type notes about the military emitting brain eating waves onto the general populace. I was appalled to learn that perhaps it was the United States navy that sank several fishing ships. Submarines get tangled in nets and when the sub dives they pull down net and boat to Davey Jones' locker and leave nary a trace. Of course, there is extensive mention of the fishing industry and local institutions as the Tides, the Casino and the Bohemian Grove. Most sketches take place in local hamlets like Camp Meeker, Sebastopol, Occidental and Bodega each providing a background for its own hilarious or tragic anecdote.
The book is a delight. It is constructed in segments so you can pick it up and put it down without losing continuity. I have a hunch, though, that once started you will not be able to put it down.
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