Martin's Must Reads: 'Deep River'

Oct 8, 2019

“In the early 1900’s, as Russia’s imperial rule takes its toll on Finland, the three Koski siblings, Ilmari, Matti and the politicized young Aino - are forced to flee to the United States. Not far from the majestic Columbia River, the siblings settle among other Finns in a logging community in southern Washington, where the first harvesting of the colossal old-growth forests begets rapid development, and radical labor movements begin to catch fire.”

I’m Betty Martin with "Martin’s Must Reads" and that’s a quote from the fly leaf of Karl Marlantes’ novel Deep River. This is a seven hundred page book that is well worth the time. It’s a family saga about three siblings from 1893 to 1932: Ilmari the family’s spiritual rock, Matti, a fearless logger and Aino, a fiercely independent woman and a union activist.

Aino is a Marxist who brings her strong beliefs to America and channels it  to help unions form to improve pay and working conditions for first the loggers and then for all workers. Her tireless work to convince workers to strike destroys her first marriage.

Not far from the Columbia River, and in the shadow of Douglas firs, her brothers establish themselves among a logging community. Through this novel you’ll learn about the physical strength and courage it took to log trees that are wider that a man is tall and the terrible living and working conditions the loggers endured. There is so much in this book: complex relationships, bootlegging, a shaman Indian woman, midwifery, fights for unions, fishing, canneries, co-ops.

If you love a rich, well-written family saga, then you must read Deep River by Karl Marlantes.