Murder and Mayhem in Puget Sound

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Approaching Bainbridge Island at sunset (Image: Linda Kramer Jenning)

If you think you know Bainbridge Island, try reading a newly published collection of short stories by writers taking an imaginative look at the island they call home. 

Mark Twain famously said that “truth is stranger than fiction.” If that’s so, then I hesitate to guess at what truths are stranger than these stories about buried bodies, climate cataclysm, and marital abuse.

But the collection of 11 stories by seven Bainbridge authors also looks at gardening, friendship and what happens when two goddesses, Lilith and Pandora in this case, share a bottle of wine at a tasting room on Winslow Way.

One of the delights of reading a book about a place you know is seeing it through a different lens and perhaps discovering you didn’t know it as well as you thought you did. As the authors of “Short Stories of Bainbridge Island” note on the back cover: “any resemblance to actual Bainbridge Islanders is purely coincidental – and yet, likely inevitable.”

What’s not coincidental is the way the various authors describe places well known to visitors and residents of Bainbridge. The vibe of a local coffee shop, the Green Light Garage billboard quotes, the details of what a man sees strolling through the Bloedel Reserve where the reflecting pool “ripples gently,” people riding on the ferry, shopping at Town & Country and driving too fast up Sunrise Drive.

“The stories are all so different, but it’s fun to see them have the common thread of physical aspects of Bainbridge Island like the nature,” says Jessica Dubey, one of the authors. “Some of the stories are about the physical geological aspects of the Pacific Northwest and some are about the social idiosyncrasies of the island community that people can relate to that live here and hopefully find the humor in it.”

The authors, known as the Oyster Seed Salon, began a weekly writers’ group after meeting each other through the Bainbridge Artisan Resource Network (BARN). The book is the second edition of their stories and features some included in the 2018 collection. 

“It’s about having a sense of the community here, the quirks and idiosyncrasies and the dynamics and the beauty and wonder of it,” says Dubey, who has lived on Bainbridge two decades and is the writing lead for BARN. “I personally think there is a magical quality to this place. I may have certain criticisms of it, but it really is a very tight and vibrant community.”

The book also reflects how this island of about 25,000 people spawns an amazing amount of creativity. Last November, the downtown Winslow neighborhood was declared a Certified Creative District by the Washington State Arts Commission.

The Oyster Seed Salon self-published the collection that includes stories by Dubey, Ulla Solberg, Diane Walker, Abigail Hamilton, Joan Piper, Laura M. Kemp and Starre Julia Vartan and is edited by Julie Stipe. It’s available through their website and from Eagle Harbor Book Co. on the island. 

In their introduction, the authors note: “We hope these stories engage our readers, deepen love for our community (with a tiny touch of tough love), and inspire other local writers to add to the project in the years to come as island life inevitably evolves.”

As Dubey says: “if someone wants to write and to share why do you live on that little island, give them this book.”

I would add, give the book to anyone who wonders why people love Bainbridge Island despite ferry frustrations, continuing threats of quakes and tsunamis and politics as twisted as any in the big city across the water. Even in the stories featuring murder or climate catastrophe or relationship disasters, you’ll find themes of resilience, humor, hope, love, and friendship that will remind you of why you or someone you know embraces life on this island.

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Linda Kramer Jenning is an independent journalist who moved to Bainbridge Island after several decades reporting from Washington, D.C. She taught journalism at Georgetown University and is former Washington editor of Glamour.

1 COMMENT

  1. I loved your comment about politics on the island. I never lived there but I have many friends over the years who have, and it’s so true that the political intrigue and battles there are as fraught with drama and intrigue as any you will find in Seattle. The book sounds like fun; I’ll be sure to get a copy. Any excuse to visit Eagle Harbor Books!

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