Lopez author’s debut novel rooted in people and place - Salish Current
May 16, 2024
Lopez author’s debut novel rooted in people and place
Gretchen K. Wing

Oz, without the wicked witch: Lopez Island is now home for author Shari Lane whose debut novel reflects her finding belonging in people and place. (Robert Harrison)

May 16, 2024
Lopez author’s debut novel rooted in people and place
Gretchen K. Wing

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Author Shari Lane finds island’s gift in a sense of belonging.

The San Juan Islands enjoy an abundance of authors, and their ranks grow richer with the publication of Lopez Island resident Shari Lane’s debut novel “Two Over Easy All Day Long,” a funny and moving story of redemption at the Sunnyside Up Diner. 

Places, it seems, can give you meaning — if you pay attention to the people in those places. 

In the novel, a judge orders the befuddled white-collar antihero, Giles Gibson, to leave Manhattan to work for minimum wage in the rural Oregon town where his negligence resulted in tragedy. 

Unlike Giles, Lane chose her own move, pushing back against longstanding fears. Growing up in an oft-moving family, she said, “The idea of staying in one place, especially a small town where I could be known — cue the “Cheers” soundtrack — made me anxious: what if anyone who really knew me didn’t like me?”

Why Lopez?

Lane’s career hints at restlessness: Latin teacher, Montessori preschool teacher, manager at the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, lawyer. 

“Through every career change,” she said, “I’ve been nervous that I won’t measure up, and simultaneously looking to find a place where I felt like I belonged.” 

After daring to stay put a little longer in each new location, Lane said, she became “more certain of what I mean when I whisper to my inner Dorothy, ‘There’s no place like home’.” 

This, she said, is how she knew, landing on Lopez, “that the tornado of life had brought me to my personal Oz, minus the wicked witch.” 

Release of “Two Over Easy All Day Long”  (Golden Antelope Press 2024) will be celebrated on Lopez Island May 17.

On her feeling of connection to Lopez, Lane noted first the primacy of nature: “It’s a place where the physical presence of the Earth is at every moment more real than to-do lists.” But unconventionality is right up there too. Lane called Lopez “a place where quirkiness is practically a requirement, not something to be corrected.”

Why fiction?

A self-described early and avid reader, Lane relied on books to fill the dearth of friendship caused by her family’s frequent moves. Among her earliest “friends,” she listed Jo March from “Little Women” and Meg from “A Wrinkle in Time.” She credited these characters with teaching her critical thinking skills and empathy, and forming her creative philosophy, that “good writing can provide a much-needed escape, a chance for a cathartic cry or a healing belly laugh.” 

Most importantly, Lane believes stories build bridges, as seeing a different perspective through the eyes of a fictional character can lead to a better understanding of our shared humanity. “In every role, in every permutation of my life, I have sought to be a problem-solver, someone who helps bring people together,” Lane said, “and that’s where stories come in.”

Why “Two Over Easy All Day Long”?

After earning a law degree to champion the environment, Lane became disillusioned with bureaucracy and the difficulty of finding solutions which didn’t inflict further harm. She switched her focus to employment law, and went to work for the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. 

“I imagined myself the hero on a white horse rescuing oppressed employees from the evil machinations of their employers,” she said.  The truth, she discovered, was far more complicated — and this complication forms the heart of her novel. 

“Years ago,” she said, “I read about a case where a judge sentenced a wealthy corporate defendant to perform community service that would force him to experience the powerlessness that poverty imposes.” Lane said that the same desire to restore balance underpins the judge’s decision in “Two Over Easy All Day Long” to require Giles to “walk in the shoes of a minimum-wage worker who can never be sure, from paycheck to paycheck, that there will be enough.” 

Her characters are not stock figures but real people, as Lane described, “wrestling with inner demons and attempting, with varying degrees of success, to access their better angels.” Through her characters, Lane was able to consider the possibility of true change for a person — whether they might, as she put it, “shed carelessness and self-absorption and act from a place of compassion.” 

For Lane and her husband, moving to Lopez required what she called “a leap of faith,” trading friends, family and routine in Oregon to move to a tiny community where they knew nobody. But Lane’s bridge-builder instincts reassured her. 

The island, she said, “is a place where even those with vehemently opposed politics stand shoulder to shoulder when a neighbor is in need.” Lopez Island’s gift to Lane is not redemption but belonging, and it’s a gift as powerful to her as the fictional Oregon town is to Giles Gibson. 

Lane’s inner Dorothy is finally satisfied.

“Two Over Easy All Day Long,” published by Golden Antelope Press, will celebrate its launch Friday, May 17, 5:30-8:00 pm, at the Lopez Island Library, 2225 Fisherman Bay Road. The public is invited to celebrate with original music by Adam Brock, an egg-dish themed potluck, introduction to the Friends of the Library and book sales by the Lopez Bookshop.

 —  By Gretchen K. Wing

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