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Caribou Island by David Vann

Caribou Island (original 2011; edition 2011)

by David Vann

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4354024,192 (3.58)17
Title:Caribou Island
Authors:David Vann
Info:Harper (2011), Hardcover, 304 pages
Collections:Your library, Fiction
Tags:US, quiet desperation, _book

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Caribou Island by David Vann (2011)



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Set in Alaska, this is a very dark story of a dysfunctional marriage that has endured with a grim determination for many years and produced two children, a son and a daughter. The son lives a hedonistic existence and the daughter struggles in a barely functional relationship with a deceptive man; however, she is the main emotional support of their severely depressed mother. The ending affirms what has been sadly apparent throughout this book. It is extremely well written with a meticulous attention to the details that make this novel so haunting. ( )
  pdebolt | Apr 12, 2015 |
This book was hard to read at some stages. "Gritty", a reviewer might say. There are no good relationships in this book, no people you want to be - they're all deeply, deeply flawed. At one stage I even considered stopping reading because I couldn't feel enough connection with the characters. I persisted, however, and I'm glad I did. At the end I think I came to realise that no matter how terrible these people were, I am not actually that far away from being one of them. ( )
  oldblack | Feb 3, 2015 |
Couldn't put this book down. Vann tells a gripping but bleak tale set in Alaska. V good characterisation and sense of place. ( )
  sianpr | Dec 11, 2014 |
This grim novel moves implacably toward its dark climax but is so gripping that I could not stop reading despite a cast of manipulative, crazed, doomed characters and implicit violence on every page. It was not a fun read but it was not possible for me to put the book down. My ration of sardonic pessimism about human nature for the decade. ( )
  nmele | Apr 6, 2013 |
If books were colors, this book would be a dark inky blue. It would be the color of undercurrents that pull the listener inexorably towards the tragic moment. It would be the color of deep impenetrable forests and lakes that shoulder against daylight and keep secrets in their primordial being. It would be the color of a night sky in the north which hints at a little daylight within it still; but holds it captive, letting it know it can be easily swallowed up. So, yes, this is my metaphorical description of Caribou Island that lets you know that it is not a novel of hope and love or even happy endings.

What Caribou Island is, is a novel about a family on the Kenai Peninsula whose quotidian routines (begotten of never-ending regret and frustration) are disturbed as Gary, the patriarch of the family, decides to build a cabin in an even more remote area off of the peninsula. His wife, Irene, the unwilling accomplice in the ill-conceived plan, assumes her role of martyr on a scale not seen since the days of Greek Tragedy, suffering from inexplicable and severe headaches and, the conviction that her husband is taking steps to leave her. Gary and Irene's daughter, Rhoda, is the Cassandra of this epic, eddying around in her parents' wake as her perceptive concern blinds her to her own domestic situation. And then there is Mark, Rhoda's brother, the erstwhile fisherman and career stoner, blithely unconcerned with the fates of those surrounding him.

David Vann's writing is figuratively photo-realistic, portraying setting and characters vividly (mosquitoes, warts and all;) but you may have cause to want to expunge those images from your mind by the time the book has ended. It's all a bit dark in timbre and the big scene is surreal and graphic (though no surprise to those familiar with David Vann's previous work.) The setting may be gorgeous; but none of the people are likable and; there is nothing funny or happy about this story. Caribou Island is a tragedy set in modern context and as such the listener can expect to see an exposition of immutable fate and impotent people. There is no antidote in this story, no convincing argument that the events as they unfolded were not inevitable and no solace that the reader or listener is really inherently different from the characters in the book. There is little to take away from the story other than we may be living out our own modern tragedies.

Bronson Pinchot's narration hits all the right notes, imbuing each character with distinction and pathos. If I were to fault him for anything, it would be for the voice of Monique, a young seductress. Monique doesn't sound natural, somehow at odds with the quality of the rest of the narration.

These comments were redacted from the blog review originally posted at http://dogearedcopy.blogspot.com on 03/02/2011. ( )
  Tanya-dogearedcopy | Apr 4, 2013 |
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When the construction of their dream cabin on an isolated Alaskan island is interrupted by an early Arctic winter, Gary and Irene find their marriage unraveling as they become stranded with their daughter, Rhoda, who watches helplessly as her parents drift further apart.… (more)

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