Caribou Island: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

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, ...

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Caribou Island: A Novel

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Overview

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 disap-pointments 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.

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Editorial Reviews

Kevin Canty
Caribou Island gets to places other novels can’t touch. . . . 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.”
People
“Vann’s beautiful, spare portrait of a marriage’s end casts a singular spell.”
Alan Cheuse
Caribou Island builds to an horrific climax and stands as an engrossing and disturbing work of art.”
Wayne Harrison
Legend earned him the acclaim of being one of the best writers of his generation. His first novel is a worthy successor. . . . Caribou Island gives us a climax as haunting and realized as any in recent fiction.”
Caitlin Roper
“Moving, powerful . . . Vann’s people are hurtling irretrievably toward a dark outcome, and while putting the book down might save you from it, you can’t stop reading, just as you can’t unlearn its truths.”
Kevin Grauke
“Vann forces us to watch, to pay attention. He refuses to provide his characters—or us—with an easy, happy resolution. Instead, he gives us something much more valuable: an unflinching portrait of what can happen to lives when hopes and ambitions wander off, get lost, and surrender to the merciless cold.”
Robin Vidimos
“Both [Caribou Island and Legend of a Suicide] are intense tragedies set against an unforgiving landscape. Both are delivered in clear, lyric prose. . . . Vann isn’t delivering happy endings, but he is delivering life in crystalline, unforgettable prose.”
Karen R. Long
“Vann is a poet of the animal swings between men and women struggling for the upper hand.”
New Yorker
“Compelling. As the plot moves toward a gruesome finale, the reader is submerged in ‘slow waves of pressure, water compacting but no edge to it.’”
Sheerly Avni
“[Vann] has come fully into his own voice, from the striking opening scene to the fateful final sentence.... An oddly exhilarating horror story in which human demons spring from the smoke of their own disappointment and regret. Caribou Island earns Vann a seat beside the masters. A+”
Toby Lichtig
“Transfixing and unflinching. . . . Full of finely realized moments. . . . Comparison with Cormac McCarthy is fully justified.”
Outside Magazine
“Greatness has arrived: Caribou Island is a powerful first novel of love, lust, and regret set on an island near Soldotna, a fishing town on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.... Vann slowly and quietly builds the drama toward an emotional gut-punch of an ending—think Cormac McCarthy on ice.”
The Economist
“[Vann uses] American landscape as a metaphor to tremendous effect. . . . Vann’s brilliance as a writer lies in his willingness to expose everything. . . . A writer to read and reread; a man to watch carefully.”
Don McLeese
“An existential page-turner and literary breakthrough. . . . The novel’s primal power, moral depth, and narrative command show the author making a big leap.”
Bret Anthony Johnston
“A taut and riveting study of isolation, insanity, and violence.”
Olivia Laing
“The reader’s awareness of real deaths, real griefs, gives his work something of the lethal intensity of handling an unsheathed knife: at times the power is exhilarating, and at other times it cuts bloodily and to the quick.”
Jake Kerridge
“Bleak, beautifully written and bitterly funny. . . . What really distinguishes Vann’s work is his feel for his wintry setting. . . . But he is, oddly, just as memorable when describing a soul-crushing afternoon at the local fish cannery.”
Ian Sansom
“Compared to Caribou Island, The Road is grim-lit lite. . . . Welcome to Vann’s demon land.”
Ian Crouch
“Reaffirms Vann as a talented conjurer of the natural world, and of our nakedness in the face of its power and cruel impassivity.”
Melanie McGrath
Caribou Island is a beautiful, richly atmospheric if unsettling novel, and deserves to consolidate Vann’s position among America’s literary high flyers.”
Tyrone Beason
“Beautifully gloomy….Compelling….[Caribou Island] triumphs in its juxtaposition of claustrophobia-inducing relationships against the forbidding vastness of our 49th state….Vann uses chiseled phrases and verb-less declarations to evoke the natural ruggedness of the setting as well as the character’s emotional distress.”
Doug Johnstone
“As bleak as an Alaskan winter, but it also wields an unforgiving, elemental power that is breathtaking to read.”
Lee Randall
“Vann summons an atmosphere of terrestrial and emotional permafrost so intense that it’ll freeze your bones.”
Mike Dunham
“Arguably the first literary masterpiece to take place on the Kenai Peninsula. . . . Like a macabre machine, the narrative ratchets ever tighter until the closing image of one final, forlorn hope that will be smashed as soon as the story-telling stops and the reader closes the book.”
Patrick Condon
“Vann keeps the pages turning with the skill of the best mystery novelists.”
Robert Olen Butler
“It’s rare when a fiction writer of extraordinary literary merit is equally brilliant in both the short story and novel forms. David Vann is a dazzling exception….Vann knows the darkness but he writes from the compassionate light of art. This is an essential book.”
Ron Rash
“In this exceptional first novel by the celebrated author of Legend of a Suicide, an oncoming Alaska winter becomes metaphor as a troubled marriage moves implacably toward a bleak reckoning. Caribou Island is an unflinching portrait of bad faith and bad dreams.”
The Daily Post (New Zealand)
“Expect to have to stop and think now and then as answers may be hard to find, but the questions are everywhere. Read it and be prepared to expand your mind.”
People
“Vann’s beautiful, spare portrait of a marriage’s end casts a singular spell.”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062042330
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/18/2011
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 202,997
  • File size: 686 KB

Meet the Author

Published in twenty languages, David Vann's internationally bestselling books have won fifteen prizes, including best foreign novel in France and Spain, and have appeared on seventy-five Best Books of the Year lists in a dozen countries. He's written for the New York Times, Atlantic, Esquire, Outside, Sunset, Men's Journal, McSweeney's, and many other publications, and he has been a Guggenheim, Stegner, and NEA fellow.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 40 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(10)

4 Star

(10)

3 Star

(6)

2 Star

(5)

1 Star

(9)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 40 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 1, 2011

    horrid

    Not only was this book not worth reading...which coming from a reading teacher is hard to say! There were multiple errors in punctuation, missing page numbers and in several spots, it felt like pages were missing as the story did not flow... specifically the ending

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2013

    Artemis

    "You're dead shuddup."

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2013

    Dark and unhappy but made me think.

    This was a dark, unhappy story. I can see why so many people did not like it. It definitely is all about the darker emotions of humans. It showcases the loneliness, fear, and desperation that exists in people, and how it affects their relationships. The long descriptive narratives of the landscape of Alaska added to the feel of the book.
    It's hard to say I enjoyed the story due to the bleakness of the characters lives. However, I was completely caught up in wondering how it was going to turn out. I could feel the characters emotions, and was hoping desparately for life to improve for them the entire time. Plus, I have been thinking about it a lot since I finished. For these reasons, I give the story 5 stars.
    The author did not use quotation marks when people were speaking. Due to the fact he was often describing the thoughts in the characters heads, while in the same paragraph they would speak to another character, it often was confusing as to whether they were thinking or speaking, which I found somewhat annoying.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 22, 2012

    Waste of Time!!!

    Don't waste yiur time with this one! I have to say this has got to be one of the worst books I've ever read. I usually stop after a few chapters if I am not liking a book, but i had such high hopes that this one would get better, but it never did. It just got worse. After finishing it I was in the weirdest mood for a few days and it turned me off from reafing for two months (not good, considering I had just joined a book club). The one good thing- I borrowed it from the library so at least I didn't have to pay for it!

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  • Posted June 22, 2012

    Dark depressing

    The only reason I kept reading was in hopes of a better ending. I know all endings don't end happy however this one just left me feeling what happened to the other characters. Did any of the others work things out, truth finding some meaning in their lives, that life is worth living. This book also made me feel like most of what any of us do or did is fruitless. If you want to challenge yourself that you can read this without feeling low or angry at the characters go for it.

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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 February 26, 2011

    why

    Worst story! Not worth the time I spent reading and waiting for it to get better, or at least to find any kind of reason for this book! Sorry I purchased it!

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  • Posted February 25, 2011

    Worst book ever!

    So disappointed in this book! Not only was the story awful but a first grader could write with better grammar!

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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!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 23, 2012

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    Posted July 2, 2011

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    Posted January 22, 2011

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    Posted March 11, 2011

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    Posted January 21, 2011

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    Posted January 24, 2011

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    Posted January 22, 2011

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    Posted February 14, 2011

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    Posted December 12, 2011

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