Going to Bend
If you have ever lived in a small town, be prepared to run into some of your neighbors in Hubbard, Oregon, the setting for this fresh first novel. If you haven’t, GOING TO BEND will give you a marvelous peek into life in a community of fewer than 5,000 souls.
Rich in lush details, this great big slice-of-life story has characters who may surprise you, especially in how much you care about them. But there’s more than just a likable --- and spunky --- cast. Diane Hammond’s prose sparkles with wonderful sentences like, “Rose’s life was gliding by in a lovely blur of good soup and purposeful days and warm uncomplicated nights with Christie. A good life.”
Nadine and Gordon, a brother and sister team, move up from L.A. to this tiny Pacific village. They want to escape the feverish rat race that is the city. While planning to open Souperior’s, a restaurant focusing on --- you guessed it --- soups, they hold a contest for recipes. The grand-prize winner will be offered a job. For Rose Bundy and Petie Coolbaugh, making soup has always been a way to survive. Perpetually short on money, for them it meant the difference between eating and going hungry. It is their recipe that comes out on top and that lands them a job they split between them, a job they sorely need. Now they find themselves humming along, creating chowders, minestrones, purees and anything that involves broths, veggies, meats and fish.
This may not sound like the makings of a great novel, but the characters take over and live on these pages. Petie has a husband, two kids about as opposite as salt and pepper, and childhood baggage even her best friend knows nothing about. Rose lives alone with her daughter, except for when the fishing boats dock for a while and her fellow comes to stay for a few months.
Hubbard is a small town; everyone knows everyone --- and everyone’s business. But the new business in town struggles. Small towns don’t like newcomers. They carry a grudge against outsiders. It will take Rose and Petie’s greatest effort to keep themselves employed, which means keeping Souperior’s running. Meanwhile, other star players, like Petie’s deadbeat husband, are hanging out doing what townsfolk do: dropping by the tavern, haggling for items automotive, and helping neighbors. And there’s the inveterate ladies’ man, flashing his impish grin and showing a side of himself even his insanely jealous wife never knew existed.
The people are so real, I wondered how the author had come to know some of the same people I did. She gave them heart. She gave them flaws. They come with an attitude, and a lot of love. If this is indeed a first novel, Diane Hammond is going to blow the socks off the fiction world. This is a spectacular entry into the genre. The glimpse into the lives of Rose Bundy and Petie Coolbaugh is so authentic (right down to the “gargantuan pink wooden butterflies with three-foot wingspans nailed to the siding”), I could smell the soup.
Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 22, 2011
Going to Bend
- Publication Date: March 1, 2005
- Genres: Fiction
- Paperback: 336 pages
- Publisher: Ballantine Books
- ISBN-10: 0345460987
- ISBN-13: 9780345460981