In To Build a Ship, Don Berry explores the extent to which a man can betray himself and his morality for a dream or an obsession. It's the story of a handful of settlers who take up land in the fertile Tillamook Bay Valley in the early 1850s-defiant dreamers battling the wilderness. With impenetrable mountains at their backs and the open sea as their sole road to trade, they are suddenly isolated from the outside world when the only captain willing to enter their harbor dies. With the survival of their new settlement threatened, they decide to build their own schooner.
At first the challenge brings out the best in the men, but soon the tensions inherent in this monumental task engulf them. Obstacles accumulate and complications mount: a death, a murder trial, trouble with restive Indians, and finally a travesty of justice. Excitement, shock, and gripping drama mark this story of men pushed to the point of madness as they see the Morning Star of Tillamook slowly take shape on the wild Pacific shore.
Don Berry's three novels about the Oregon Territory — Trask, Moontrap, and To Build a Ship — are as rich and compelling today as when they were first published more than 40 years ago. The new OSU Press editions of these books include an introduction by Jeff Baker, book critic for The Oregonian.