Paul Rasmussen is a young ethnographer and academic recovering from prostate cancer. Broken, he retreats to the remote forests and towns of the Immitoin Valley. As an outsider, he discovers how difficult it is to know a place, let alone become a part of it. Then, a drowned man and a series of encounters with the locals force him to confront the valley’s troubled past and his own uncertain future. As Paul turns his attention to the families displaced forty years earlier by the flooding of the valley to create a hydroelectric dam, his desire to reinvent himself runs up against the bitter emotions and mysterious connections that linger in the community in the aftermath of the flood.
An original debut novel that is meditative, raw, and exuberant in tone, Aaron Shepard’s When is a Man offers a fresh perspective on landscape and masculinity.