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.”