Summary and book reviews of Going To Bend by Diane Hammond

Going To Bend

by Diane Hammond

Going To Bend
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2004, 293 pages
    Paperback:
    Mar 2005, 320 pages

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About this Book

Book Summary

An evocative debut novel about life in a small town and of two women testing their own limits. A moving and deftly told portrait of the hard-scrabble life.

Petie Coolbaugh and Rose Bundy have been best friends since childhood. Now in their early thirties, they are grappling with coming-of-age and station; meanwhile, they work together in Petie's kitchen preparing gallons of soup each day for Souperior's, a new upscale café in town. Both of them need the extra money to support their families; Petie, who has gotten used to keeping her family on track as her loving but unreliable husband slips in and out of work, needs to feed her two young boys, while Rose, a warm, affectionate single mother, is her teenage daughter's sole support. The proprietors of the café, Nadine and Gordon, are fraternal twins from Los Angeles with adjustments of their own to make, but Rose's friendliness and the quality of the women's soups quickly make them indispensable despite Petie's abrupt manner and prickly ways.

The strains of daily life are never far, however, and the success of the café is far from certain. As the story draws lovers, employers, friends, and family into a mesh of interwoven events and revelations, each woman finds possibilities for love and even grace that she had never imagined.

An evocative portrait of life in a small town and of two women testing their own limits, Going to Bend combines the sexy sassiness of Thelma and Louise with the emotional warmth of Fried Green Tomatoes. It is a stunning debut.

Chapter 1

Hubbard was one of the oldest no-account towns on the coast of Oregon. Men there fished commercially or helped others deep-sea fish for sport; they worked in the woods cutting timber, or they worked in the mill over in Sawyer, making paper amidst a great noise and stink. They lived hard, bore scars, coveted danger and died either young and violently or unnecessarily old. The women worked, or not. The children belonged to them.

Hubbard was one of those places where you could still have your choice of oceanfront trailers--old rusting aqua and silver tunafish cans with moisture problems. Highway 101, the West's westernmost route from Canada to Mexico, was the town's only through street, a straight and single shot lined with gift shops and candy shops and kite shops and a Dairy Queen, shell art and postcards and forty-six flavors of saltwater taffy, homemade right here. There was everywhere a spirit of cheer, clutter and nakedly opportunistic goodwill: what Hubbard ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Much of the action in Going to Bend happens over food preparation. What does soup represent in the lives of Petie and Rose? How is that different than its significance for Nadine and Gordon?

  2. Kitchens are also centers for discussion, revelations, and turning points. What key scenes take place in kitchens?

  3. As a young man, Schiff meets a redheaded girl at a carnival and, early in the book, vividly remembers the few hours they spent together. Later, he will associate her with Petie. Why? What characteristics and quirks do these characters hold in common—and why does Schiff find them appealing?

  4. When Petie is young, she and Paula seek refuge in a gift shop from Old ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Described as an 'exceptional debut' (Kirkus Reviews), 'a testimonial to the regenerative power of female friendship' (Library Journal) and compared to Fried Green Tomatoes; Going To Bend's portrayal of issues such as childrearing, friendship and self-determination, clearly position it as a book targeted at women and, if the publishers have their wish, book clubs.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

Full Review Members Only (205 words).

Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Hammond shines an unwavering light on a group of people who struggle to make do, yet who live their lives and cope with hardship with grace and dignity. Her clean, sharp prose, idiosyncratic dialogue and deep insight into relationships embellish this heartfelt debut.

Library Journal - Rebecca Sturm Kelm

Recommended as a testimonial to the regenerative power of female friendship, the will to survive, and the courage to seek happiness.

Kirkus Reviews

An exceptional debut about small-time lives and limited dreams in rural America....A portrait of the hard-scrabble life moving and deftly told.

Booklist - Bill Ott

Hammond's debut novel ... feels at first like a working-class weeper, the sort of female buddy story that Oprah's fans would love.....What makes the novel work is the details...Yes, the novel ends with the possibility of new lives, but what lingers here is the unflinching look at dailiness.

Reader Reviews

Marisol

Going to Bend
This book was rich with real life touching experiences that I can relate to. In Rose's character I see my best friend, the one who is always there for me when I need to talk , the one who always offer me her shoulder to cry on, the one who ...   Read More

Jeff M

Wow- I thought this was a great book! The characters were fully fleshed out and became real people to me and the location of course was a character in itself. Even though Im a city person and nothing similar has ever happened to me, the events seemed...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

Diane Hammond has worked as a writer and an editor. She was awarded a literary fellowship by the Oregon Arts Commission, and her writing has appeared in such magazines as Yankee, Mademoiselle, and Washington Review. She served as a spokesperson for the Oregon Coast Aquarium and the Free Willy Keiko Foundation - she published Keiko's Story: The Real-Life Tale of the World's Most Famous Killer Whale in 1998.  She lives with her husband, Nolan, and daughter, Kerry.  

Her second book, Homesick Creek, is due to be published in July 2005 - the story of two women, Anita and Bunny, who've...

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