Roger Salloch's writing is better known in Europe, where he has been resident for most of the past forty years and where his works have been published both in English and in translation. But his new novel, Not When I'm Gone, is stunningly American, drawing on the author's memories of youthful summers spent on the coast of Maine and on more recent return excursions to his native land. Salloch's Maine is peopled with uniquely American characters drawn from lobstermen and their women as well as the more affluent Up Islanders and summer people--all of whom have inhabited this endless coast for generations. Salloch gives us characters who never feel as if they have to justify themselves or their lives. They only, in their author's words, "lead their lives the way they see fit." Not When I'm Gone offers a phantasmagoria of thoughts and dreams, most plain spoken but often tinged with unselfconscious poetry, and all unveiling the broken heart of today's America. Salloch employs the Maine locale deftly, letting it subtly present both sides of our country's existential divide. But Maine is that rare place where both sides butt up against each other, talking and even having sex across the class divide. A drug deal, carried out by these seafaring descendants of Prohibition rumrunners, shadows but doesn't drive the plot. Salloch's lyrical and compelling prose, while never overtly political, depicts an America at sea--literally and figuratively.
Kind words from Roger Smith, a former contributor to Playboy and Variety.