Ron Carlson is a widely respected author whose accolades include a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship and a Ploughshares Cohen Prize. Return to Oakpine spins a story of growing up and growing old as four high school friends and former bandmates reconnect 30 years after graduating. When they learn that one of them is dying, it feels like getting the band back together might be the most important thing they can do.
This book was a let down after reading Carlson's "Five Skies." It seemed the author pulled out all the tricks to make his characters interesting and poignant (small town kids with big dreams, painful family rifts that need healing, life-long friendships, illness, love gone wrong...) but it all ended up looking contrived and predictable. This is so unlike "Five Skies" where the characters really are interesting and poignant and the story is fresh and moving. Read that instead.