Sequoia Gardens A Bouquet of Lives
A Prospect Review
Sequoia Gardens, the new book from Ernest Finney is like a 12 course meal in a gourmet restaurant. Each of the stories is a plate of its own, some festive and bright, some savory and dark, some hot and sharp, all satisfying.
Finney crafts each story from a point of view, one we quickly inhabit. Each is a variation on a theme; in each we have one short story to come to know the character and watch how the flow of life carries them. The author achieves his goal beautifully, using intimate and arcane facts to detail the character and place us where they are: Vietnam, Northern California, the Central Valley, Mt. Fuji.
Finney skillfully drapes the reader with each character: here, this is what it’s like being a foster kid; here, this is what placer mining was like; here, this is what it’s like to be in love. Life is revealed as gritty, uncompromising, always uncertain. Once Finney cloaks you in a character you feel the cold water, the soft touch, the disappointment, the indecision, the ambivalence, the hope, the bullet.
Finney’s love of the history and geography of the Sierra is unmistakable, and most of the stories at least touch on the mountains. Here, the detail is perfect, right down to a copy of the Mountain Messenger on the table. For those of us who live here, it gives the stories a sense of authenticity, of being tangibly real.
Sequoia Gardens explores the common person, people like ourselves. Life brings us sudden pleasant surprises, suddenly ghastly experiences, but mostly, like Finney’s prose, it pushes us along, moving us past people and places, making sense only after it’s past.
This collection is a must for anyone who studies life, or loves good fiction.