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Martin Marten    by Brian Doyle order for
Martin Marten
by Brian Doyle
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2016 (2015)
Hardcover, Softcover, e-Book
* * *   Reviewed by Rheta Van Winkle

Martin Marten is a story about two teenagers who live on Oregon's Mount Hood - one a boy of fourteen and the other a young pine marten. The boy, Dave, calls the mountain by its tribal name of Wy'east and lives with his parents and five-year-old sister in a cabin, while Martin, when we first meet him, lives with his mother and three siblings in the hollow of a tree. Dave's parents have allowed him to roam freely on the mountain ever since he was taught by his father how to find his way among the trees. He has the same sort of knowledge of his world that a similar boy who lives in a city would have about his.

Zigzag, where Dave lives, is a community of cabins and trailers that is spread out around a tourist lodge, schools, and a general store owned by Miss Moss. Although this is primarily a story about Dave and Martin, we also meet many of the other residents of the loosely connected community and get their points of view. This fictional hamlet is called Zigzag after the actual Zigzag River.

Martin is the most interesting character of the book for me, since before reading this I had no idea what a marten was. We are privy to Martin's thoughts, as well as those of some of the other animals that appear in the story. Martin's clever mother teaches her kits to be wary of dangers, while she shows them how to catch food. Martin is the cleverest of the three male kits, though, and is able to rescue his brothers several times because he is more observant and quicker to react. Later, as he begins to separate himself from his family, he finds himself so curious about people that he hangs out near the lodge so he can watch them. He is particularly interested in Dave and begins to run through the trees near Dave as the boy runs on the ground. He also helps Dave's family when a crisis threatens one of their members.

I enjoyed reading this book. Brian Doyle shows his concern for the environment and all the creatures who inhabit it. He writes in an engaging manner about the various people and animals and particularly Dave and Martin. But I also liked the accounts of Maria, Miss Moss, the trapper Mr. Douglas, Louis the moose, the horse named Edwin, the dog that 'silently inserted himself into Mr. Shapiro's days in so subtle a manner that Mr. Shapiro, for all his vaulting intelligence and attentiveness, hardly noticed,' and the many others who appear in the book. There are discussion questions at the end, and I think this would make an excellent choice for a book club.

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