Date of Award

May 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy



First Advisor

Valerie Laken

Committee Members

Liam Callanan, Jason Puskar, George Clark, Joe Austin


The Wildish Boys, a novel is a contemporary realist narrative that follows the Wildish family through the 1970-90s in Bellevue, Washington. Forced out of his generational farmlands of Indiana, Abraham (Pops) applies his farming skills to a job in the U.S. Forest Service in order to support his growing family. In the summer of 1976, a teenage boy, Sawyer Godenot, arrives to claim Pops as his father, which disrupts the familial structure and displaces Lenny Wildish as the oldest brother. While the family struggles within this new order, the area is hit with a crushing economic downturn. Pops becomes unemployed and his alcoholism escalates, and the older boys become involved in the growing Seattle drug culture. The fate of the family is at risk. Within the narrative, dark elements of illicit sex, drugs, and an unfortunate death elevate the stakes and illustrate how single moments of chance and choice reverberate with widespread and often tragic consequences. This is a story that challenges the idea of genetic pre-disposition and self-determination, and against the sweeping changes of the times, it also questions the costs of progress in terms of its impacts to class structures and traditional family values.

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