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Red Dog, Red Dog by Patrick Lane

Red Dog, Red Dog (edition 2010)

by Patrick Lane

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895135,585 (3)13
Title:Red Dog, Red Dog
Authors:Patrick Lane
Info:Windmill (2010), Paperback, 352 pages
Collections:Your library

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Red Dog, Red Dog by Patrick Lane



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This is the story of the Stark family: brothers Eddy and Tom, their parents, and three sisters who died as children. It unfolds over a week, but plenty of back story is provided to put the current situation in context.

The writing is absolutely beautiful. But, all in all, this book was a disappointment. There are far too many peripheral characters who are not well developed. While the story picks up near the end as it focuses more on the main characters, it still left me unsatisfied. ( )
  LynnB | Sep 7, 2010 |
Whoa! This is one of those books that I wonder if I have the skill to put into words all that the book is. But I'll give it my best shot. Set in the 1950s, mostly in the Okanagan Valley of British Columbia (but also into Alberta, Montana and Washington) This is the story of a poor rural family and it's dark secrets. It is a story of pain and suffering and redemption.

No time frame is ever definitively given in the book. We never know the year or the day and the narrative tells this family's story from the mid/late 1800s up to the 1950s. We know the present time is the fifties due to clues in the writing, such as a reference to Elvis as a new singer. We can figure out the past dates as the story goes back to the great-grandparents of the modern characters. With no reference to the time, it can be unsettling as the narrative sways back and forth within chapters from an omnipotent narrator of the present to the narrative of a baby girl buried when she was just six months old. Alice, as she was named, was told stories by her father at her graveside his whole life and she has some connection to the spirits of the family from which she hears the family's story. Also, unsettling, once it dawned upon me (about 1/4 of the way into the book) was the author's non-use of any quotation marks, as if the narrators are telling you a story from the past, saying what he said and she said without actually having anyone speak. It is definitely a very compelling voice the author has chosen.

Also with no time reference one doesn't really know the length of time that passes during the story of the modern characters, though the jacket flap tells me it is one week, which seems feasible to me. The main characters are only a part of the story, not really even the most important part. It is the past which developed this family into who it is and created the ones now living. The past is full of dark stories which show how the various characters became sad or violent while suffering and enduring, how the past continues on generation after generation. More of the past is written about than of the main modern characters but it is all relevant to the bitter and redeeming surprise ending.

The writing is beautiful. One could read passages aloud for pure enjoyment, and I did do this myself, which is a rare occurrence for me. The story unfolds slowly, and at times one may feel it is meandering away from a cohesive plot, but it always gets back on track and the reader realizes at certain points the meaning of those wayward sub-plots. I really enjoyed the book. It is very deep and certainly depressing but the characterization is portrayed brilliantly and the reader suddenly realizes they care for these people. If you are looking for a page-turning, linear, plot driven book this one is not for you. However, if you like to get inside the heads of people who live a tormented life (in one way or another) you will find this story very satisfying. In fact, I think this is the type of book that one would enjoy even more the second time around as hidden meanings would make one nod in recognition of where the story is going. I most likely will re-read this book again some day. ( )
1 vote ElizaJane | Dec 22, 2008 |
The story unfolds slowly like peeling the layers off an onion. Sensuous very detailed descriptions bring the landscape to life, reveal subtle nuances of character. But very bleak, left me feeling the need for something light with humour. ( )
  loosha | Dec 8, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0771046359, Hardcover)

A National Bestseller and a Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year

One of the most powerful, gripping works of fiction to come out of Canada, Red Dog, Red Dog is Patrick Lane’s virtuoso debut novel.

An epic novel of unrequited dreams and forestalled lives, Red Dog, Red Dog is set in the mid-1950s, in a small town in the interior of B.C. in the unnamed Okanagan Valley. The novel focuses on the Stark family, centring on brothers Eddy and Tom, who are bound together by family loyalty and inarticulate love.

There is Tom and Eddy’s father, Elmer Stark, a violent man with a troubled past, and Lillian, who married as a girl to escape life on the farm with her widowed mother, and now retreats into her own isolation. Unrepentant, bitter, older brother Eddy speeds freely along, his desperate path fuelled by drugs and weapons, while Tom, a loner, attempts to conceal their secrets and protect what remains of the family. Eventually, an unspeakable crime causes him to come face to face with something traumatic that has lain hidden in him since he was a boy. Narrated in part by one of the dead infant daughters Elmer has buried, the story unfolds gradually, as it weaves in family stories that reach back to the depression days and the harsh life of settlers in the 1880s West.

This is also a novel about a small community of people, about complicated loyalties, about betrayals and shifts of power. Filled with moments of harrowing violence and breathtaking description, of shattering truths and deep humanity, Red Dog, Red Dog is about the legacies of the past and the possibilities of forgiveness and redemption. With this astonishing novel, one of Canada’s best poets propels himself into the forefront of our finest novelists.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:50 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

An epic novel of unrequited dreams and forestalled lives, 'Red Dog, Red Dog' unfolds over the course of one week in and around a small town in British Columbia in 1958, with stories arcing back in time to the 1920s and 30s.

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