Synopses & Reviews
The prize-winning author of Legend of a Suicide
delivers his highly anticipated debut novel.
On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, a marriage is unraveling. Gary, driven by thirty years of diverted plans, and Irene, haunted by a tragedy in her past, are trying to rebuild their life together. Following the outline of Gary's old dream, they're hauling logs to Caribou Island in good weather and in terrible storms, in sickness and in health, to build the kind of cabin that drew them to Alaska in the first place.
But this island is not right for Irene. They are building without plans or advice, and when winter comes early, the overwhelming isolation of the prehistoric wilderness threatens their bond to the core. Caught in the emotional maelstrom is their adult daughter, Rhoda, who is wrestling with the hopes and disappointments of her own life. Devoted to her parents, she watches helplessly as they drift further apart.
Brilliantly drawn and fiercely honest, Caribou Island captures the drama and pathos of a husband and wife whose bitter love, failed dreams, and tragic past push them to the edge of destruction. A portrait of desolation, violence, and the darkness of the soul, it is an explosive and unforgettable novel from a writer of limitless possibility.
"People haunted by their own failures and lost dreams drive Vann's earnest but uneven first novel, which opens with Irene, an ailing middle-aged Alaskan woman, telling her grown daughter, Rhoda, about coming home and finding her mother 'hanging from the rafters' one day when she was 10 years old. Irene also tells Rhoda that she believes her husband, Gary, wants to leave her. Gary, 'a champion of regret,' wanted to be an academic, but ekes out a living fishing and building boats while planning a self-imposed exile with Irene on an island in Alaska's Skilak Lake, where he's building a crude log cabin. Rhoda envisions marital bliss with her boyfriend, Jim, a philandering, selfish dentist. Their internal monologues rage with ideas and desires that read like authorial conceits, not the thoughts of real people. The only true character is Alaska itself, and Vann, author of the story collection Legend of a Suicide, is at his best depicting the harsh, rugged landscape of the Alaskan wilderness. (Jan.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
"A striking novel filled with the violence borne of a bitter life." Kirkus Reviews
"Vann, who received acclaim for his short-story collection Legend of a Suicide (2008), renders luminous prose in this haunting tale of hardened hearts and broken dreams." Booklist
"Vann delivers an authentic story, even lyrical at times. He is a writer headed for notable accomplishments. Enthusiastically recommended." Library Journal
"[T]his story of a family in southern Alaska comes to us in a series of vibrant moments as bracing, invigorating and finally as deadly as the icy water that surrounds these characters." Washington Post
"It may be premature to identify a writer's interests as obsessions when his fictional output includes just a single collection of short stories, and now a novel; but from the first pages of Caribou Island
, it is clear that David Vann has some things that he cannot get out of his head. Bleak and terrifying things, too: suicide as an act of aggression, nature's power to reflect and inspire madness, and the perverse allure of doomed endeavors."
Ian Crouch, The New Republic (Read the entire New Republic review
About the Author
David Vann is the author of Legend of a Suicide, which has been translated into sixteen languages, won ten prizes, and been on forty Best Books of the Year lists worldwide. Hes also the author of the bestselling memoir A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea and Last Day on Earth: A Portrait of the NIU School Shooter, winner of the AWP Nonfiction Award. A current Guggenheim Fellow and former Stegner Fellow and NEA Fellow, he has taught at Stanford and Cornell, and is now a professor at the University of San Francisco.