Set in the previously sleepy hinterlands straddling Washington state and British Columbia, Border Songs is the story of Brandon Vanderkool, six foot eight, frequently tongue-tied, severely dyslexic, and romantically inept. Passionate about bird-watching, Brandon has a hard time mustering enthusiasm for his new job as a Border Patrol agent guarding thirty miles of largely invisible boundary. But to everyone’s surprise, he excels at catching illegal immigrants, and as drug runners, politicians, surveillance cameras, and a potential sweetheart flock to this scrap of land, Brandon is suddenly at the center of something much bigger than himself.
A magnificent novel of birding, smuggling, farming and extraordinary love, Border Songs welcomes us to a changing community populated with some of the most memorable characters in recent fiction.
Lynch digs into the strange culture of a U.S.-Canada border town in his lush second novel (after The Highest Tide). Brandon Vanderkool, the town freak people talk about the way they discuss earthquakes, eclipses and other phenomena, is pushed into joining the Border Patrol by his dairy-farmer father. Though the dyslexic, six-foot-eight Brandon prefers to bird-watch and tend to the cows on his father's farm, he proves to be surprisingly adept at spotting drug smugglers and illegal immigrants, which brings a wave of attention to both him and the town. The illegal goings-on provide excellent plot fodder, though the novel is equally concerned with smalltown life: Brandon's mother is noticing the first sign of Alzheimer's; his father's struggling dairy farm hits a low point when his herd becomes diseased; a local masseuse records the town's activities with her camera; and the beautiful, enigmatic Madeline provides an object of affection for Brandon. Lynch's depiction of the natural world and his deep sympathy for his characters carry the book, and while it's a bit quiet, there are majestic moments.