The Oregon Experiment
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East Coast transplants to small-town Oregon, Naomi and Scanlon Pratt are at the threshold of a new life. Scanlon has a position at the local university—teaching mass movements and domestic radicalism—and Naomi, a fragrance designer whose sense of smell has inexplicably vanished, is pregnant with their first child.
For Scanlon, all of this is ideal, from impending fatherhood to the chance for professional vindication. The Pacific Northwest provides ample opportunities for field research, and almost immediately he finds a subject in Clay, a troubled young anarchist who despises Scanlon’s self-serving attempts at friendship but adores Naomi. He also becomes involved with a regional secessionist group and—despite his better judgment—with its leader, a sensuous free spirit called Sequoia.
Naomi, while far less enchanted with these radically different surroundings, discovers that Oregon has something to offer her as well: an extraordinary world of scents. Her acutely sensitive nose is somehow revived, though she certainly doesn’t like everything she’s smelling. And as the Pratts welcome their newborn son, their lives become so deeply entwined with Clay’s that they must soon decide exactly where their loyalties lie, before the increasingly volatile activism that Scanlon has been dabbling in engulfs them all.
A contemporary civil war between desire and betrayal, rich in crisp, luxuriant detail, The Oregon Experiment explores a minefield of convictions and complications at once political, social, and intimately personal.
fight.” Scanlon stood up, but didn’t move from the head of the table. “And you!” He pointed at Sequoia. “Spewing ignorant crap about anarchists. But for a business,” he spit the word, “a profit-making business paying minimum wage and taxes to the government, and for a church for yuppies doing yoga, you call in the anarchist to smash up somebody’s Porsche.” Naomi didn’t dare move from her seat, though she cupped her hand over Sammy’s head. Clay’s rage smelled like burnt hair. He held his
happen. The Basques and Tamils will always be considered terrorists. But a tiny secession from history’s greatest empire by the Pacific Northwest Secessionist Movement could shake the world.” “I never heard of them.” “They’re small but fierce, and with a little help from me—” “You’re joking.” “Not at all. Plus there’s these extreme right-wing Christians north of here and hippies living off the grid—” “Stop!” Sam barked, then fell into a fit of coughing. Scanlon heard him take a drink and
latched the gate, and Scanlon stood there watching their lights dart around the next yard. His bare feet were cold from the concrete, the chilly night air creeping up his robe. His heart thumped powerfully in his chest. He went back inside to the sharp smell of pot and gasoline, and standing over Clay he reached down for the roach and the Bic. He torched it up, drew in a lungful, and let it go. “What did you do, Clay?” The kid’s head twitched. “Thanks for getting rid of them.” “You owe me.”
thing she’d ever act on, but sitting in his class she would have allowed the power of his intellect, sexuality, and authority to slip through her skin. “The baby’s been sleeping,” he said. “I think it’s good for him to be out in the air.” He’ll be a wonderful father, she thought. The right balance of idealism and practicality, of providing shelter and caring for his child’s heart, nurturing both the mind and body. Her own parents loved her, but when it mattered most, in their all-out rally to
door. She threw the door open and flung out her arms. “You were amazing!” she said, giddy, ecstatic, pressing a finger to her lips and lowering her voice. “Trinity’s sleeping.” She pulled him inside and hugged him. “You got us on the news.” She kissed his cheeks and forehead, then said in a mock reporter voice, “The director of the Oregon Experiment.” “You make me feel like the king of the experiment.” He couldn’t stop smiling. “You should. You are the king. You’re my king. I’ve gotten over a