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David James Duncan

Author of The Brothers K

10+ Works 3,537 Members 98 Reviews 28 Favorited

About the Author

David James Duncan has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes & has won a Montana Arts Council Award. He lives in Montana. (Bowker Author Biography)

Includes the name: David James Duncan

Works by David James Duncan

Associated Works


20th century (18) American (25) American literature (28) anthology (33) baseball (124) brothers (28) coming of age (24) ecology (10) environment (28) essays (110) family (67) favorites (12) fiction (457) first edition (14) fishing (72) fly fishing (38) humor (26) literary fiction (15) literature (35) memoir (15) nature (66) non-fiction (57) novel (58) Oregon (43) own (20) Pacific Northwest (44) philosophy (21) politics (13) read (32) religion (46) rivers (17) short stories (37) spirituality (27) sports (12) to-read (202) unread (33) USA (12) Vietnam (33) Vietnam War (27) war (10)

Common Knowledge

Portland, Oregon, USA
Places of residence
Portland, Oregon, USA (birth)
Lolo, Montana, USA
Awards and honors
Lannan Literary Fellowship (2002)
Short biography
Duncan is married to sculptor Adrian Arleo.



I am a HUGE David James Duncan fan - I've read his other novels (The River Why; The Brothers K) and all of his nonfiction, and I couldn't wait for his new novel to be released. Sun House is his first novel in 31 years! It is such a labor of love, so brilliant, so packed full of thought provoking insights and ideas, philosophy, comparative religion, humor, love.

That said, there were times this very long novel (761 pages) was a bit of a slog. The first half of the book was chock full of interesting characters and scenes, and I was enamored with it. Then about 3/4 of the way through it got so wordy, so bogged down with stilted and unlikely dialogue, and I got a bit confused about the characters, The storyline I was assuming would be the climax came at this point, and so swiftly it was a bit of a letdown.

Duncan obviously did a tremendous amount of research for this book - I think I read that it was a 16 year project. He writes brilliantly, his storytelling has always been remarkable. In Sun House, however, I found some sections overly long, some full of Sanskrit or Latin phrases that were difficult for me to get through, and a lot of woo-woo. Anyone who knows me will tell you that I love me some woo-woo. But this was a bit over the top even for me.

I love Duncan's vision of community in this novel - an inter-generational group of people who use their skills and strengths in service to the whole and who respect life in all its forms.

I do appreciate a novel with a lot of depth, one that helps me learn about new ways of living, communicating, or thinking. 75% of this book did that for me, but there were many obstacles to me diving in and staying there.

I sincerely hope we don't have to wait another three decades for Duncan's next novel. I still maintain that his writing is brilliant, usually highly readable, funny, and relevant.

I was sure this would be a five star book for me and one of my all time favorites. It's not that, but four big stars for brilliance and storytelling.
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teelgee | Sep 27, 2023 |
This doesn't qualify as a full review due to bailing out of the story in the first 100 pages. I had hoped Duncan's storytelling to be similar to Richard Russo, but its not at all. And while I realize the setting is such that the Bible played a big role in people's lives, the non-stop references page after page after page dulled my interest. Am sure for those able to look beyond this, they'll enjoy it, but as for myself, I cannot.
Jonathan5 | 54 other reviews | Feb 20, 2023 |
Sweeping family saga set mostly in the 1960’s – 1970’s in the state of Washington, The Brothers K is the story of the Papa Hugh Chance, a former baseball player whose career was derailed by injury, Mama Laura, a fervent Seventh Day Adventist with a painful past, and their four sons and two daughters. It is told in first person by the youngest son, Kincaid, through his own observations, as well as news articles, letters, school papers, and family memorabilia that provide additional points of view into relationships and events, and covers topics such as baseball, family dynamics, religion, nature, politics, war, and coming of age during the turbulent sixties. Though the characters are many, the focus is primarily on Papa Hugh, Mama Laura, and three of the four sons: Everett, Peter, and Irwin. Everett, the eldest, clashes with his mother regarding religion and becomes a rebel-hippie-agnostic. Peter, the second son, is the most athletically gifted, but is drawn to intellectual pursuits and Eastern spiritualism. Irwin is a good-hearted trusting soul who embraces his mother’s religion but also suffers the most trauma. It is a great example of how siblings can be remarkably different in temperament and avocations.

The author has a wry sense of humor and is skilled at evoking emotion, at times funny, poignant, or heart-breaking. Baseball anecdotes and analogies are prevalent in the first half of the book. Duncan uses baseball as a metaphor for life, and baseball fans will particularly enjoy this part. As the storyline expands, and the children grow to adulthood, the focus shifts away from baseball and toward their various interests. It also moves away from their small hometown in Washington to international locations. There are plentiful allusions to The Brothers Karamazov, for which the book is named, but the storyline is substantially different, and it is not required to have read Dostoevsky’s novel in order to appreciate this one. As baseball fans will know, a “K” represents a strike-out, and the characters suffer a number of failures, life lessons, and adversities. Duncan explores the nature of success and failure by examining life-altering decisions, and the roles of fate, chance, and spirituality. The characterization is outstanding, with enough detail to understand motivations. At almost 650 pages, Duncan takes a few detours that perhaps were not strictly required and relates extended dream sequences. It will require the reader’s patience and persistence, but the payoff felt worth the effort. This book explores the themes of faith, hope, self-discovery, doubt, internal strife, love, forgiveness, and redemption. It is a gem of a book, a mixture of a great yarn and a thought-provoking philosophical look at life.
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Castlelass | 54 other reviews | Oct 30, 2022 |
At age twenty, Gus Orviston tells of his life growing up in rural Oregon in a fishing family. His dad writes about fishing. His parents met while fishing. They constantly debate the merits of bait versus fly fishing. Upon graduating from high school, he believes his life will be complete if he can achieve the “ultimate schedule” of doing nothing but eating, sleeping, and fishing. So, he moves away from home to an isolated cabin near a stream. Gus starts to notice the impact of human activity on his surroundings, which changes his outlook. He eventually figures out that there needs to be more to his life than a single-minded pursuit, and he branches out.

This novel is so much more than a book about fishing. It is about finding one’s place in the world. It contains musings about love, spirituality, and life. Fishing becomes a metaphor for a search for meaning in life. It expresses a reverence for the earth and its creatures.

The author weaves together beautiful descriptions of nature, a number of mini-stories, and a great deal of humor. There are a number of eccentric characters – a five-year-old child nicknamed Hemingway, a dog named Descartes, and a young woman who fishes from a tree. I found it extremely creative, and though I am far from a fisherman, I very much enjoyed this uplifting story.
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Castlelass | 34 other reviews | Oct 30, 2022 |



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