Synopses & Reviews
In "Ichthyology", a young boy watches his father spiral from divorce to suicide. The story is told obliquely, often through the boy's observations of his tropical fish, yet also reveals his father's last desperate moves, including quitting dentistry for commercial fishing in the Bering Sea. Rhoda goes back to the beginning of the father's second marriage and the boy's fascination with his stepmother, who has one partially closed eye. This eye becomes a metaphor for the adult world the boy can't yet see into, including sexuality and despair, which feel like the key initiating elements of the father's eventual suicide.
"A Legend of Good Men" tells the story of the boy's life with his mother after his father's death through the series of men she dates. In "Sukkwan Island", an extraordinary novella, the father invites the boy home-steading for a year on a remote island in the southeastern Alaskan wilderness. As the situation spins out of control, the son witnesses his father's despair and takes matters into his own hands.
In "Ketchikan", the boy is now thirty years old, searching for the origin of ruin. He tracks down Gloria, the woman his father first cheated with, and is left with the sense of a world held in place, as it turned out, by nothing at all. Set in Fairbanks, where the author's father actually killed himself, "The Higher Blue" provides an epilogue to the collection.
"This well-crafted debut collection, five stories and a novella, from award-winning writer and memoirist Vann (A Mile Down) revolves obsessively around the suicide of an Alaskan father. Hopscotching through time, each tale examines the father's death from the perspective of his young son, Roy. The first story, 'Ichthyology,' introduces the young protagonist and his troubled father, a tax-dodging dentist and fisherman who ends up shooting himself on the deck of his fishing boat. 'Rhoda' finds the 12-year-old boy bonding with his new stepmother, a pretty young woman his father married before the tragedy. In 'A Legend of Good Men,' Roy imagines a fantastically violent rampage in which he does away with his mother's suitors, la Odysseus and Telemachus. The novella, 'Sukkwan Island,' is an increasingly suspenseful story of survival, in which a 13-year-old Roy and his father brave the elements for months in an isolated mountain cabin. Vann uses startling powers of observation to create strong characters, tense scenes and genuine surprises, leading to a ghastly conclusion that's sure to linger." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
In semi-autobiographical stories set largely in David Vann's native Alaska, Legend of a Suicide follows Roy Fenn from his birth on an island at the edge of the Bering Sea to his return thirty years later to confront the turbulent emotions and complex legacy of his father's suicide.
“The reportorial relentlessness of [David] Vanns imagination often makes his fiction seem less written than chiseled. A small, lovely book has been written out of his large and evident pain.”—New York Times Book Review
In Legend of a Suicide, his heartbreaking semi-autobiographical debut story-collection, David Vann relates the story of a young man trying to come to terms with the guilt and pain of his fathers suicide. The wild outback of the authors native Alaska acts as the ideal backdrop for this collage of six stories—a novella and five shorts—and mirrors the authors own psychological wilderness. From “an important new voice in American literature” (Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain) comes an unforgettable exploration of the tragic gaps between one boy and his father.
In The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea
, Rosemary McGuire's compelling debut short story collection, fishermen and -women cling to a life on the ocean's border. Risk and loss are habits to them, but ones that have not undermined their essential humanity--or their hearts. Their lives are rugged, full of grief and grace. No one in these stories comes through unscarred, but they still cling to the hope that comes from a belief in secular miracles.
A man witnesses a tragic accident that calls his own life into question. A young woman meets her high school sweetheart after many years, and seeks to make sense of the separate paths they've taken. And in the title story, a soldier home from Iraq tries to rebuild his life in a remote Alaskan village.
These are fishing stories, told as such stories are told: simple, violent, often coarse, but paying homage to the elemental beauty of the sea. In the end, the reader is left with a sense of the fragility and beauty of life, as it is exposed in proximity to danger and loss.
A man witnesses a tragic accident that calls his own life into question. A young woman meets her high school sweetheart after many years and seeks to make sense of the separate paths they've taken. A soldier home from Iraq tries to rebuild his life in a remote Alaskan village.
These are fishing stories, told as such stories are meant to be: simple, often coarse, and tinged with the elemental beauty of the sea. They reflect rugged lives lived on the edge of the ocean’s borders, where grief and grace ride the same waves. Rosemary McGuire, a fisherman herself, captures the essential humanity at the heart of each tale. No one comes through unscathed, but all retain a sense of hope and belief in earthly miracles, however humble.
A dazzling debut, The Creatures at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea will leave readers with a sense of the fragility and beauty inherent in eroded lives spent in proximity to danger.
In this exquisite debut novel, Mary Emerick takes readers into the watery landscape of southeast Alaska and the depths of a family in crisis.
An abusive father and a broken home forces a teenage Winnie to seek the safety of a neighboring bay and a pair of unlikely father figures. Years later her mother goes missing, and Winnie returns to the hunting and fishing lodge she grew up in to find the world she knew gone. Her once-powerful father disfigured by a bear attack. Her childhood hero revealed as merely human. And her mother’s story rewritten by a stray note.
As Winnie uses the help of friends to sort out the details of her mother’s final exodus, she finds herself pulled into a murky swirl of family secrets and devastating revelations. As the search heads higher into the mountains, Winnie must learn to depend on her own strength in order to reach the one she loves.
About the Author
David Vann is an internationally bestselling author whose work has been translated into nineteen languages. He is the winner of fifteen prizes, including Frances Prix Médicis étranger, Spains Premi Llibreter, the Grace Paley Prize, a California Book Award, the AWP Nonfiction Prize, and Frances Prix des lecteurs de LExpress. His books—Legend of a Suicide, Caribou Island, Dirt, A Mile Down, and Last Day on Earth—have appeared on seventy best books of the year lists in a dozen countries. A former Guggenheim fellow, Wallace Stegner fellow, John LHeureux fellow, and National Endowment for the Arts fellow, he is a professor at the University of Warwick in England. He has written for the Atlantic, Esquire, Outside, Mens Journal, McSweeneys, the Sunday Times, the Observer, the Sunday Telegraph, and many others, and he has appeared in documentaries for the BBC, Nova, National Geographic, and CNN.
Table of Contents
The Lost Boys Longtime Co.
Easter, Thompsen’s Bay
Dutch Harbor, New Year’s Eve
Snow Night on the Richardson
The Day We Went Down to Chalkyitik
The Creature at the Absolute Bottom of the Sea