Not All Coasts Are Outer

Donovan Hohn’s early years were spent on a mountain in northern California above the skyline of San Francisco, but he spent just as much time growing up in the Midwest and it is this region of the United States that resonates throughout his new book of essays, The Inner Coast, a retrospective of stories from his career writing for magazines and various quarterly journals.

Pulled together, they reveal a sensitivity to Midwestern values, aesthetics and yes, coastlines that one finds in states such as Michigan—along with all the inherent mythology, much in the way the west was for Sam Shepard. The collection is somewhat a love letter to Americana. 

Smart, observant and a talented wordsmith, Mr. Hohn’s vivid and descriptive writing puts you at the heart of whatever topic he is discussing—and the topics vary widely.

From the avid collecting of historical tools in A Romance of Rust (my favorite piece) to the ecological cracking of the poisonous Flint, MI water system by Virginia Tech Professor Marc Edwards in The Zealot to a bemused and studied defense of the life and writings of Henry David Thoreau, the essays draw you in with captivating prose and elegant development.

Eloquence is key for these essays and one can delight in being not only entertained but educated as well (have a dictionary handy!).

The book is a superb example of a work by an author in his prime and near the end, he offers a personal memoir of growing up with two parents who couldn’t figure each other out and the affect that had on the family unit. The humanity is both relatable and heartbreaking yet balanced by a direct plain speak that doesn’t solicit pity but, oddly, nostalgia for childhood. A personal look at the man himself is a moving way to draw the collection to a close.

It also makes you feel, in hindsight, that you have lived the other stories with him along the way.

Not only do ocean waters run deep—lakes and rivers do as well.

The Inner Coast is available at Amazon and local booksellers.