Ninety miles north of Seattle on the Washington coast
lies Bellingham Bay, where a rough settlement founded in the
1850s would become the town of Whatcom. Here, the Lummi and Nooksack
Indian people fish and farm, hermits pay their debts in sockeye salmon, and
miners track gold-bearing streams.
Here, too, is the intimate, murderous tale of three men.
Clare Fishburn believes that greatness lies in store for him. John Ireland
Sharp, an educated orphan, abandons hope when he sees socialists expel the
Chinese workers from the region. Beal Obenchain, who lives in a cedar stump,
threatens Clare Fishburn’s life.
A killer lashes a Chinese worker to a wharf piling at low tide. Settlers
pour in to catch the boom the railroads bring. People give birth, drown, burn,
inherit rich legacies, and commit expensive larcenies. All this takes place a
hundred years ago, when these vital, ruddy men and women were “the living.”
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