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“Dazzling… Vann knows the darkness but he writes from the compassionate light of art This is an essential book” —Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prizewinning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain“Exceptional…An unflinching portrait of bad faith and bad dreams” —Ron Rash, author of Burning BrightSet against the backdrop of Alaska’s unforgiving wilderness, Caribou Island is David Vann’s dark and captivating tale of a marriage pulled apart by rage and regret With this eagerly anticipated debut novel, a masterful followup to his internationally bestselling short fiction anthology, Legend of a Suicide, Vann takes up the mantle of Louise Erdrich, Marilyn Robinson, and Rick Moody, delivering a powerfully wrought, enthrallingly emotional narrative of struggle and isolation David Vann uses no quotation marks throughout this bleak depressing read Is his refusal to use quotation marks supposed to be some new Style of writing, like texting? Why not just throw out all punctuation? We could all write in one long rambling paragraph Eventually we could even leave out the spacing between words I HATE what is being done to literature by those too lazy, or too unlearned, to write properly Vann's imagination is just so bleak, so depressing, he should see a doctor He obviously thinks everyone feels this way What a revelation it would be for him to get on medication, discover there are things to like and love about life I certainly can believe he wrote Legend of a Suicide, because this book sounds like he is suicidal The only reason I finished reading it was because I kept hoping there would be some meaning, or some revelation for these characters What a waste of my time reading this was It's been a very long time since I waded through anything so useless, with no redeeming value But, I feel better having said so Read at your own peril. Caribou Island is a masterpiece Set in the remote bleakness of watersoaked, small town Alaska, this is a tale of desperation, failure, of manversusnature but also of man so arrogant and selfinvolved, so removed from reality that he does not bother to properly prepare for the battle Some hope is gleaned, some battles are won, but the war seen here is a dark, suffocating presence Alaska felt like the end of the world, a place of exile Those who couldn’t fit anywhere else came here, and if they couldn't cling to anything here, they just fell off the edge These tiny towns in a great expanse, enclaves of despair Whereas most fiction floats atop a watery base of prose, Vann’s characters and story sit amidst a thick stew of imagery His writing has the density, the economy of a short story No event occurs that does not contribute to the underlying momentum, or to enhancing our understanding of the characters or their actions Salmon thrashing about on the deck of a boat echo how his characters struggle to survive the travails of their lives One even dreams of himself underwater with the hooked fish The Alaskan environment is as much a character as the characters themselves While it can be a beautiful landscape, and that is notedthan once, it is mostly harsh here, offering chill wind, rain, snow, cold, the harshness of the venue reflecting the harshness of the characters’ emotional states The water was no longer turquoise A dark, dark blue today, with blackness in it, a clarity, no glacial silt suspended Irene didn't know it could change so completely in even a day A different lake now Another metaphor for itself, each new version refuting all previous Vann’s language is as unadorned as a block of Hubbard ice, reminding me of Cormac McCarthy, particularly in his frequent verbfree sentence constructions The primary actors in Caribou Island are a latemiddleaged couple, Gary and Irene Gary is impulsive, controlling, a bully and a coward, who cannot ever see himself as being in the wrong He wants to test his mettle by constructing a cabin on the shore of remote Caribou Island Another character thinks about sailing a ship around the world, thus conjuring Robert Stone and Outerbridge Reach Gary’s wife, Irene, desperately trying to save her marriage, reluctantly agrees to help, despite knowing that constructing this cabin is only another in a long history of follies Their daughter, Rhoda, is a veterinarian’s assistant She lives with, and expects to marry Jim, a dentist, who is going through a midlife crisis A sociopathic manuser rips through the scenery, leaving a trail of destruction, and a few minor characters are given lines But their actions serve primarily to highlight the larger issues Looming over all is Irene’s memory from age ten, when she found her mother, hanging.What effect must that have had on such a young person? Vann ought to know His own father took his life when Vann was thirteen Irene carries that memory on her back like Jesus stumbling toward Calvary Given Vann’s prior work, one must wonder if one orof his characters will find their way to a similar a dark end But there is a route There are reasons, challenges, revelations, lies, contemplations Abandonment and isolation are prime here Vann casts a laser light on how people manage to see past each other, how they miss chances to connect He looks at how fear, whether of failure, or of being alone, can help cause the very things we most want to avoid Even the sociopath is running from something Vann shows how people can make each other invisible, whether consciously or not, and do so at their peril, and how their externalizing of internal issues and images impacts those around them Are we doomed to repeat the crimes of our parents? Of our parents’ parents? Of forebears beyond counting? The subject matter may be tough, but the journey is incredibly rich, the main characters well realized, the craft impressive You will find yourself thinking about scenes from this book long after you have moved on to your next read Vann is the real deal, and this is top notch literature Climb into your leaky boat, brave the icy wind and squalldriven waves slapping at the sides of your craft and head over to Caribou Island It is a memorable sojourn And if this is not recognized as one of the best books of 2011, I will eat my copy.Other books by David VannLegend of a SuicideGoat Mountain Alaska’s beauty has a brutal edge From a distance it appears calm and pristine, but the reality of living there can be harsh, unyielding Chaos is part of its nature, a reflection of the chaos in the couple’s marriage, their lives, while at the same time adding to their chaos A perfect storm gaining momentum.Gary pictures himself as an ancient Viking; forever bonded to this wilderness, thriving, every attempt at nature to knock him down is countered with his conquering bellows As part of his dream, he and his wife, Irene are moving to Caribou Island, log by log and side by side they will fulfill his plan to build a cabin there, a small cabin built for just the two of them to live out their days.“They were going to build their cabin from scratch No foundation, even And no plans, no experience, no permits, no advice welcome Gary wanted to just do it, as if the two of them were the first to come upon this wilderness.”Irene is recently retired, and suffering from blinding, chronic headaches which her husband dismisses, her daughter seems baffled by both the sudden appearance of these headaches and her father’s obliviousness to her mother’s nonstop pain “He thought she was making up the pain, thought it wasn’t real She was sitting right in front of him in the boat, facing him, but he managed to look ahead their entire trip across that lake without seeing her at all Part of how he was letting her vanish.”Beyond the headaches, Irene suffers from increasing dread of Gary’s fantasy life on this island All she wants to do is crawl into a comfortable bed, find a quiet space and shut away as much of this pain as possible “And meanwhile, Irene said quietly to herself, this gets to be my life Because you can choose who you’ll be with, but you can’t choose who they’ll become.”Their daughter Rhoda is concerned about her mother, the headaches, the desolate environment her father seems hellbent to drag her to She wants them close by She can’t be worrying about them on an island without any communication Nature complies by blanketing everything with a storm seemingly designed to add an atmosphere of desolation like a fog surrounding all Everyone’s emotions, thoughts and dreams seem to follow suit Vann’s writing is effortless, beautiful, haunting Caribou Island is a captivating, story with tremendously memorable characters Alaska’s wilderness is just as much a character in this angst filled story as Gary and Irene Lonely, disconnected and haunting. You can't have what no longer exists.Brutally raw..and that's not just an adequate descriptive for the glacierfed lake on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula Rugged terrain both in life and in the treacherous environment that surrounds both the body and the soul.Gary and Irene seem to gravitate toward the light of a star that may not be their own Gary continuously fights against the demons within that have tagged alongside him for all of his adult life He casts his fate like coins thrown randomly in a fountain..no plans, no preparations, no seeking advice nor taking it Shaking his fist and constantly looking over his shoulder at the past is his selected brew.Irene shores Gary up like a rainslicker in a windstorm Sadly, she finds that you can't always fight against the elements on a grand scale Debilitating headaches leave her in a volatile state Gary's headstrong insistence of building a log cabin on Caribou Island inflames her inner being Her feelings of abandonment from childhood are suffocating her And so she continues to trudge through the motions.Rhoda and Mark, their children, struggle to find their own sense of fulfillment Rhoda finds herself running down a corridor shaped and created by someone elsea very questionable pursuit to live in someone else's lane.David Vann creates characters that are real, wounded, desperate, and left out in the open He uses no quotation marks in his dialogue Their words just pour out gushing and frigid like the icy waters of an Alaskan waterfall No filters here No filters necessary.And you will meet a few other individuals added to the mix who thrust the storyline into high gear I had to screech out loud a few times while experiencing their purposeful actions Whatever you put out into the universe somehow finds its way back And who pays that costly price?Please note: This incredible novel forms a nest of heavy subject matter It is certainly not for the light hearted But the writing is topnotch and seeps into the nooks and crannies of its characters like no other Bold, unrelenting, and served with a very intense chill Kudos to you, David Vann.