One of the most reviewed books recently is David Vann’s Caribou Island, which arrives with high expectations, as signaled by an author profile by Charles McGrath featured on the Jan. 15 cover of the NYT‘s Arts section.

McGrath says that the book had already been “enthusiastically” reviewed in the Washington Post, a strange description for a review that begins by suggesting the reader, “Approach David Vann’s first novel the way you would a fresh grave – with a mixture of fascination and fear,” and concludes with,

…is the ending too much, too Gothic, too masochistic in its determination to make these hapless characters pay for surviving, for imagining that hope isn’t a cheat? As the final pages rise into the piercing registry of Cormac McCarthy… some readers may spot Vann’s thumb on the scale, making sure every drop of agony is paid. But just wait: For a few moments after this perfectly choreographed horror, it’s impossible to say anything at all.

It’s a curious dilemma; how do you recommend a book about a disintegrating marriage that ends with little hope? It’s echoed in subsequent reviews:

NYT BR; Caribou Island gets to places other novels can’t touch. By the end, I felt the senseless logic of the dream. Though it wears the clothes of realism — the beautiful exactness of the language, the unerring eye for detail — it takes us someplace darker, older, more powerful than the daylit world.

Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered; NPR, Despite multiple story lines, which…appear somewhat badly nailed together, Caribou Island builds to an horrific climax and stands as an engrossing and disturbing work of art.

Seattle Times; a beautifully gloomy debut novel.

San Francisco Chronicle; David Vann portrays a failing marriage with stinging precision. The slow boil of pent-up resentments rang so true, I found myself wanting reassurance from my own spouse that all was well…Abounding in language that heightens our senses for the next evocative metaphor, Caribou Island gives us a climax as haunting and realized as any in recent fiction.

Cleveland Plain Dealer;  Vann… tips his book into horror, and then grinds out the last ember like a cigarette butt. It burns for a long, queasy time.

It seems readers are not put off; many libraries are showing high hold ratios on light ordering.

Caribou Island: A Novel
David Vann
Retail Price: $25.99
Hardcover: 304 pages
Publisher: Harper – (2011-01-01)
ISBN / EAN: 0061875724 / 9780061875724

Blackstone Audio;UNABR; read by Bronson Pinchot
OverDrive; Adobe EPUB eBook; OverDrive WMA Audiobook

Comments are closed.