Customer Reviews for

Caribou Island

Average Rating 3
( 40 )
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  • Posted August 30, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    The path from normalcy to insanity is literally a mere boat ride away.

    Gary and Irene have been married for 30 years. Their marriage is falling apart but they are held together by a very thin thread. When Gary decides to build a log home on the small island of Caribou, located on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, Irene sees it for what it is. Their last chance to make the marriage work, or a sign that it will never work and that they have failed miserably. What takes Gary sometime to realize, Irene has already realized and partially accepted. While they are trying to put this cabin together, Gary and Irene's grown daughter, Rhonda has problems of her own. She is dating Jim, a dentist. He's well-off, successful and safe. But Jim has his own secrets. As Rhonda ponders what is going on with her parents, she can't help but think about her own relationship. These are troubled times. This is not a happy story. There are no happy people here. In fact, what you have are miserable characters who are wrought with loneliness. So lonely, that being together is better than being apart and trust me, these people should be apart. As depressing as this all sounds, and it does get rather depressing here and there, the story is very compelling. Vann's writing is lovely and sad and brutally honest. It's scratchy and raw and there were times when I was uncomfortable reading, but only because Gary and Irene's story seemed so real. You know how it is when you are with a couple who is fighting? How you try to ignore the tension yet it's impossible to do so? That's how it was for me reading this book. The tension is everywhere, yet I couldn't put it down. Halfway through the story, I knew where the story was heading, but in no way did it prepare me for what actually happened. I reached that last page and the air was sucked right out of me. I had read Vann's Legend of a Suicide and had a similar feeling when I finished that one but these characters seemed more real.as if they could be people I know. That made it more personal to me and what marriage hasn't seen trouble every now and then? The images that Vann created are still floating around in my head today. Caribou Island is a moving account of a marriage gone wrong and although it's bleak, it's very thought-provoking and Vann does wonderful things with the setting. You don't enjoy a story like this, but you experience it and appreciate it on a different level. Vann is a very talented writer and at this point, I'd read anything by him.

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  • Posted March 3, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Sad, Beautiful, and Genuine

    I'm not sure what it is. But when a book is written without quotation marks around the dialogue, it just seems to make an already sad and depressing book even more so. Now in their fifties, Gary and Irene have come to the conclusion that the unhappiness in life is totally the other person's fault, not their own. After thirty years of marriage and living in Alaska, Gary now has an obsession to build a one room cabin on Caribou Island, and Irene is supposed to help. No matter what, he will finish this cabin, even though Irene's truthful complaints of pulse-pounding headaches causing her to rest for hours at a time, have them visiting doctors to uncover a medical reason. Constant rain seems to pelt on them throughout the book as they work on the cabin, with arguments and deep despair building within them as each internally review the way their lives have turned out. And their children. Mark is the son who feels fulfilled (at least on the surface) to live by day as a fisherman in Alaska, and by night completely high on drugs. Rhoda is the daughter who is missing something in her life, and could perhaps be doomed to repeat her mother's mistakes. Living with Jim, a dentist, Rhoda doesn't know that Jim is just now realizing that if he does things right, he can probably get away with adultery for the rest of his life. Here's what's brilliant and realistic about this book: Although each character is disappointed, they also feel a closeness to the person they blame. They don't strictly hate each other, to a certain extent - while at one moment Gary may be ready to leave Irene forever, he still will lay down on the bed with her and hold her lovingly. There is a tenderness even though each of them are wondering if it's too late to make their life different. This is not a book to cheer you up. Effortlessly written, page after page sharing genuine insight into a life shaped with regret and "what if," David Vann builds an eerily quiet novel to shocking, and yet silent, conclusions. A quick read, it is disturbing, authentic, and frighteningly brilliant. Read this when you don't mind feeling a little sad and wondering if you'll be able to correct any bad choices you've made in life...

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  • Posted January 25, 2011

    No sugar coating here: very real and biting

    A raw, gritty tale of individuals unable to possess their emotions or their lives, rendering a vacuum of dysfunction that threatens all involved. A powerful read!

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