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Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson

Monkey Beach (2000)

by Eden Robinson

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290739,063 (4.05)18
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    Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson (browner56)
    browner56: The Pacific Northwest sets the stage for these engrossing and highly atmospheric novels

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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.) ( )
  DawsonOakes | 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 |
Dark and funny. This is a pretty perfect book. ( )
  climbingtree | May 18, 2011 |

Robinson's writing contains several pleasantly surprising ironies. First, she evokes a strong sense of Native American past and traditions through a lens of very modern language and culture on a contemporary Indian reservation,. Second, she creates characters who are three-dimensional, believable and memorable using primarily dialog (and practically no physical descriptions) . She saves the descriptive language for nature, which becomes almost like another character in the book; but unlike most authors Robinson's "nature talk" is crisp, fresh and real, like nature itself.

This book was a totally engrossing page-turner, but its tightly packed content began to unravel towards the end, and I was disappointed when Robinson left some intriguing leads undeveloped. In fact, after finally reaching the end I'm not quite sure about the actual outcome of this story. Still, it was a wonderful read, and I'm excited about discovering a very gifted author! ( )
1 vote PrincessPaulina | May 8, 2009 |
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It is possible to retaliate against an enemy,
But impossible to retaliate against storms.

--Haisla Proverb
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Six crows sit in our greengage tree. Half-awake, I hear them speak to me in Haisla.
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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