Published by
Viking (2013-07)
Current material
Final Pages
Original language
Biography, Literature & Literary studies


by Carlson, Ron

From a widely admired author, a poignant novel about homecoming, friendship, growing up, and growing old for fans of Richard Ford and Richard Russo.

Thirty years after high school, thirty years after their short time in a rock and roll band, four men are back in their little western town in a life-changing autumn.

In the fall of 1999, four old friends find themselves together in their small Wyoming home town. Thirty years before they'd been in a band together at Oakpine High School. Jim Brand, a writer, is sick and with no where else to go has returned home to die. Mason Kirby, a successful lawyer at midlife, has returned to fix and sell his parents' old house and in an attempt to break his deep malaise. Craig and Frank have remained in town, but are dealing with life changes this charged fall. A younger generation also full of life and ambition, completes the bittersweet portrait of life in the little town as winter slowly comes across the western plains.

Ron Carlson is the author of five story collections and four novels. He is the director of the writing program at the University of California at Irvine and lives in Huntington Beach, California.

Available rights (1)

Language Territory Type Vendor Status
German World All

Sebastian Ritscher

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In this novel by an American master, four middle-aged friends, once members of the same high school band, reunite in their Wyoming hometown thirty years later, reconciling the people they’ve become with the kids they used to be.

Review: O, The Oprah Magazine

Carlson has taken what could have been a mawkish story about four high school classmates who reunite in a small Wyoming town as one of them lies dying and instead has created an engaging miniature that reveals the strength and persistence of long-ago forged bonds of friendship.…Carlson gives this fictional town a palpable reality.…He’s content to focus on the moments that usually pass unregarded through our lives, while exploring some of the ways time sands away the rough edges of the past. Out of all this, he succeeds in offering a moving depiction of friendship, love and loss.


Carlson excels in small-town Western Americana, in both embracing and interrogating nostalgia in quiet, controlled prose…a humane portrait of the lives we lead and leave behind, peeling back nostalgia’s gold veneer with grace, empathy, and a pragmatic sense of optimism.

Review: Kansas Cit Star

France: Editions Gallmeister

Quote: Client

[A] lean, weathered and big-hearted tale…RETURN TO OAKPINE is suffused with evocative landscapes and the practical yet lyrical details of work, whether a character is renovating a garage or editing a short story. The novel's emotional work shows that life on earth can yield enough fellow feeling to sustain us through great sadness, as long as we put our efforts in the right place.…Carlson delivers a moving novel about the importance of home, work and friendships forged in high school.

Review: Shelf Awareness

With spirit and grace, Carlson has caught the essence of what might have been, as well as the importance of friends and family. A touching and affecting work of literary fiction.

Review: Library Journal (starred review)

[An] eloquent and moving novel…the tension that drives RETURN TO OAKPINE [is] between what we want to do and what we need to do, between our dreams and our responsibilities.

Review: Los Angeles Times

With spirit and grace, Carlson (The Signal) has caught the essence of what might have been, as well as the importance of friends and family. A touching and affecting work of literary fiction.

Review: Kirkus

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