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Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
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Monkey Beach (2000)

by Eden Robinson

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298937,648 (4.05)22
  1. 20
    Snow Falling on Cedars: A Novel by David Guterson (browner56)
    browner56: The Pacific Northwest sets the stage for these engrossing and highly atmospheric novels
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I could not resist the narrative voice of this earthy, augury filled, family rich story set in the First Nations Haisla community of western Canada. Nineteen year old Lisamarie is generally fearless and never takes guff from anyone--she’ll launch herself at a gang of bullies without hesitation and her uncle affectionately calls her monster--but the nighttime visits she receives from a small, wild, red haired man terrify her because they always precede a death or tragedy. It’s a visionary “gift” she discovers runs in her family, though no one talks much about anymore so she’s mostly on her own with it.

When her younger brother Jimmy is lost at sea Lisamarie embarks on a solo speedboat trip up the Pacific coast driven by guilt, fear and grief, determined to find him or his body. Her vivid memories and visions along the way take the story all the way back to her early childhood and into the land of the dead.

The ending? It’s somewhat hallucinatory, not something I could confidently articulate, but I was swept along anyway. With writing that’s beautiful and raw, this book is a colorful, sometimes dizzying odyssey, filled with ghosts, poverty, kinship ties, Haisla culture, Sasquatch monkey men, and the grit and wonder of the natural world. ( )
  Jaylia3 | May 14, 2015 |
The book was a slow moving, coming of age book, but it was a good, slow moving book. I enjoyed the fact the author took the time to explore Lisa's past and how it affected her to be the person she was.

The spiritual/magical realism side of things was an interesting touch. I would have like to understand it more and I wish it was explored more. The author tied into the story wonderfully and it complimented the story, particularly Lisa's development nicely, I just wanted more on it. Especially considering it was such an important part of who Lisa was and how it connected her to the other characters.

I loved the writing, it pulled me in and flowed wonderfully throughout the book. One of my main draws into the story, was the writing alone. There were times, where I didn't enjoy the plot as much, a few bits of Lisa's past that I felt I had to push through, but the writing, made it worth it.

I can't say I liked or disliked the characters. All were well written, well developed. They all had their demons, secrets and overall, I found them all to compliment and come together well. Yet, I don't think I can say they was a character that stood out, and I don't feel they stuck with me.

The ending was well done, it was ambiguous and left a lot open - but a lot of the book was like that, there were a few things I questioned in this book, that were hinted at, but nothing ever was laid out in the open if it was true or not. But, despite this, I think it was a fitting ending, and despite not knowing all the answers, I think it was the best part of the book - for once I liked the unknown for the ending.

Good read overall.

Also found on my book review blog Jules' Book Reviews - Monkey Beach ( )
  bookwormjules | Mar 1, 2015 |
there was much about this novel that was appealing, particularly the aspects of native culture, and the settings. lisa's relationship with ma-ma-oo was my favourite piece of the book, and the knowledge lisa gained from her grandmother was so interesting to me. robinson deals with some very difficult themes within native culture. given the current unacceptable and heartbreaking situation in canada concerning the murdered and missing indigenous women, this is a very timely read.

unfortunately, there's a 'but' coming... but i just didn't feel like this book pulled everything it was trying to do together well enough. some of the characters were very thinly developed and some situations seemed without purpose. by the end of the book, i just felt disappointed, as though the book didn't quite reach the potential.

i do think this is an important book for the canadian canon, and there were definitely parts i thought were quite strong. i just didn't feel the overall quality of the writing was mind-blowing, and it was inconsistent. i am sorry! i really wanted to love the book.

(as an aside -- i am wondering how my reading impacted my feelings of the novel? i read this as part of a group read, and stuck to the reading schedule, which is hard for me to do. normally i would read a book of this length in a couple of days. in keeping to the group read, i read it over 3 weeks. i do feel my experience with the book may have been stronger if i had not drawn it out so long, with long pauses between reading session.) ( )
  Booktrovert | Feb 21, 2015 |
Monkey Beach has been described as a psychological thriller with supernatural elements, and that is close to the truth. But it is primarily the coming-of-age story of a girl struggling to come to terms with the troubled and troubling world in which she lives. Lisamarie Hill, nineteen, has settled into an uneasy truce with her family in Kitamaat, B.C., after residing for several booze-soaked months in Vancouver. Lisamarie's family is a part of the Haisla community of northern coastal British Columbia, and much of the story depicts the struggle of a people to maintain its traditions and beliefs beneath a steady onslaught of western influences. Lisamarie is on the cusp of the old and the new, her thinking equally influenced by her elderly grandmother, who maintains and preserves these traditions, and by a modern world filled with progressive attitudes in which she is immersed on a daily basis. The catalyst for the story is the disappearance of her brother Jimmy's fishing boat. Lisamarie's parents leave her at home and travel to the community where the boat was last seen, hoping to be there when their son is rescued. The bulk of the story is told in flashback and covers Lisamarie's childhood: her up and down relationship with Jimmy (a swimmer and Olympic hopeful until a freak injury derails his career), her irreverent uncle Mick, her grandmother, her parents, various misadventures with friends, and the spirits and creatures that inhabit the native world. The novel is a magical journey for the western reader, but Eden Robinson's narrative is constructed in thoroughly modern fashion. Monkey Beach tells a tragic and funny story of someone trying to establish an identity in a world that is divided along ethnic lines. Simply put, it is a triumph of storytelling and deserving of its growing reputation as a modern classic of Canadian literature. ( )
1 vote icolford | Feb 28, 2013 |
This wasn't a bad book at all and would like to learn some more facts and read more of Eden's books. ( )
  askum | Jan 6, 2013 |
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Epigraph
It is possible to retaliate against an enemy,
But impossible to retaliate against storms.

--Haisla Proverb
Dedication
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Six crows sit in our greengage tree. Half-awake, I hear them speak to me in Haisla.
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Never trust the spirit world too much. They think different from the living
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0618219056, Paperback)

Lisamarie Hill, the protagonist of Eden Robinson's coming-of-age novel Monkey Beach, is a terror. She'll run out of an evacuating car to get a better view of a tidal wave. She'll drag you unconscious to a deserted island with nothing but cigarettes, marshmallows, and the need to get you talking. Whatever her age, she'll ask awkward questions.

Set in the coastal Haisla village of Kitamaat near British Columbia's dauntingly gorgeous Queen Charlotte Islands, Monkey Beach is the story of Lisa and her Haisla community, including uncles involved in First Nations warrior movements, industrious grandmothers with one foot in the grave and the other in various spirit worlds, and the long-armed specter of residential schools. The path to adulthood (and you risk a bloody nose if you call Lisa an adult) for Lisa and her friends is beset by the dangers of substance abuse and family violence but sprinkled with hopes as varied as Olympic gold or, sadly, a "really great truck."

Monkey Beach succeeds as a novel of voice. Narrator and hero Lisa is whip-smart and ever cracking-wise: "The sky, one sheet of pissing greyness, stretches low across the horizon." Plot, however, doesn't come off so naturally. The Big Horrible Event at the story's end seems produced by page count alone, not by character. Voice and character do carry the novel, but the plot feels microwaved where it should be slow-roasted. --Darryl Whetter

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:30:56 -0400)

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