"Lively and surprising, and ultimately addictive." Salon
Monkey Beach: A Novelby Eden Robinson
Eden Robinson's first book, a collection of stories titled Traplines, earned high praise from critics: "Expertly rendered" (New York Times Book Review), and "Captured my attention and permeated my subconscious" (Toronto Globe and Mail). The book was named a New York Times Notable and won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize from the Royal Society of
Eden Robinson's first book, a collection of stories titled Traplines, earned high praise from critics: "Expertly rendered" (New York Times Book Review), and "Captured my attention and permeated my subconscious" (Toronto Globe and Mail). The book was named a New York Times Notable and won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize from the Royal Society of Literature.
Robinson's mastery is confirmed in Monkey Beach, the first full-length work of fiction by a Haisla writer and an unforgettable story set in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. This powerful novel reminds us that places, as much as people, have stories to tell.
Five hundred miles north of Vancouver is Kitamaat, an Indian reservation in the homeland of the Haisla people. Growing up a tough, wild tomboy, swimming, fighting, and fishing in a remote village where the land slips into the green ocean on the edge of the world, Lisamarie has always been different. Visited by ghosts and shapeshifters, tormented by premonitions, she can't escape the sense that something terrible is waiting for her. She recounts her enchanted yet scarred life as she journeys in her speedboat up the frigid waters of the Douglas Channel. She is searching for her brother, dead by drowning, and in her own way running as fast as she can toward danger. Circling her brother's tragic death are the remarkable characters that make up her family: Lisamarie's parents, struggling to join their Haisla heritage with Western ways; Uncle Mick, a Native rights activist and devoted Elvis fan; and the headstrong Ma-ma-oo (Haisla for "grandmother"), a guardian of tradition. Haunting, funny, and vividly poignant, Monkey Beach gives full scope to Robinson's startling ability to make bedfellows of comedy and the dark underside of life. Informed as much by its lush living wilderness as by the humanity of its colorful characters, Monkey Beach is a profoundly moving story about childhood and the pain of growing oldera multilayered tale of family grief and redemption.
"Find a map of British Columbia.... Beneath Alaska, find the Queen Charlotte Islands. Drag your finger across the map...to the coast, and you should be able to see a large island." The place described is the land of the Haisla, reservation land famous for its "black bears that are usually white." First novelist Eden Robinson is a native of this unique landscape, and her debut novel, told in the voice of a fiercely independent young woman, rings with authenticity. In Monkey Beach, she has drawn the sensitive and rebellious character of Lisa Hill, a fiery 20-year old whose little brother, Jimmy, is lost at sea in the opening scene. As the Coast Guard searches for Jimmy's missing boat, which had headed out salmon fishing several days earlier, Lisa sits at home, smoking furiously and ruminating over their shared childhood. In flashbacks illuminating the tethered lives of the Hill family, Robinson introduces several unforgettable characters: Lisa's matriarchal grandmother, Ma-ma-oo, who refuses to relinquish the Haisla traditions; her parents, who struggle to commingle ways both Western and Native American; and her Uncle Mick, a Native American activist and Elvis fan. But the truly indelible portrait painted is of Lisa, who struggles between physical reality and the spirit world that is very much a part of her psyche. Refusing to believe the reports of her brother's death, Lisa goes in search of him herself, only to discover that she's running from her own life rather than trying to save his. Monkey Beach is a moving, deeply engaging debut. (Winter 2001 Selection)
- Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
- Publication date:
- Edition description:
- Product dimensions:
- 5.00(w) x 7.94(h) x 1.00(d)
- Age Range:
- 14 - 18 Years
Read an Excerpt
Six crows sit in our greengage tree. Half-awake, I hear them speak to me in Haisla.La'es, they say, La'es, la'es.I push myself out of bed and go to the open window, but they launch themselves upward, cawing. Morning light slants over the mountains behind the reserve. A breeze coming down the channel makes my curtains flap limply. Ripples sparkle in the shallows as a seal bobs its dark head.La'es—Go down to the bottom of the ocean. The word means something else, but I can't remember what. I had too much coffee last night after the Coast Guard called with the news about Jimmy. People pressed cups and cups of it into my hands. Must have fallen asleep fourish. On the nightstand, the clock-face has a badly painted Elvis caught in mid-gyrate. Jimmy found it at a garage sale and gave it to me last year for my birthday-that and a card that said, "Hap B-day, sis! How does it feel to be almost two decades old? Rock on, Grandma!" The Elvis clock says the time is seven-thirty, but it's always either an hour ahead or an hour behind. We always joke that it's on Indian time. I go to my dresser and pull out my first cigarette of the day, then return to the window and smoke. An orange cat pauses at the grassy shoreline, alert. It flicks its tail back and forth, then bounds up the beach and into a tangle of bushes near our neighbour's house. The crows are tiny black dots against a faded denim sky. In the distance, I hear a speedboat. For the last week, I have been dreaming about the ocean-lapping softly against the hull of a boat, hissing as it rolls gravel up a beach, ocean swells hammering the shore, lifting off the rocks in an ethereal spray before the wavesmake a grumbling retreat. Such a lovely day. Late summer. Warm. Look at the pretty, fluffy clouds. Weather reports are all favourable for the area where his seiner went missing. Jimmy's a good swimmer. Everyone says this like a mantra that will keep him safe. No one's as optimistic about his skipper, Josh, a hefty good-time guy who is very popular for his generosity at bars and parties. He is also heavily in debt and has had a bad fishing season. Earlier this summer two of his crew quit, bitterly complaining to their relatives that he didn't pay them all they were due. They came by last night to show their support. One of my cousins said they've been spreading rumours that Josh might have sunk his Queen of the North for the insurance and that Jimmy's inexperience on the water would make him a perfect scapegoat. They were whispering to other visitors last night, but Aunt Edith glared at them until they took the hint and left.I stub out the cigarette and take the steps two at a time down to the kitchen. My father's at the table, smoking. His ashtray is overflowing. He glances at me, eyes bloodshot and red-rimmed.Did you hear the crows earlier?" I say. When he doesn't answer, I find myself babbling. "They were talking to me. They said la'es. It's probably—""Clearly a sign, Lisa," my mother has come up behind me and grips my shoulders, "that you need Prozac." She steers me to a chair and pushes me down. Dad's old VHF is tuned to the emergency channel. Normally, we have the radio tuned to CFTK. He likes it loud, and the morning soft rock usually rackets through the house. As we sit in silence, I watch his cigarette burn down in the ashtray. Mom smoothes her hair. She keeps touching it. They both have that glazed, drawn look of people who haven't slept. I have this urge to turn on some music. If they had found the seiner, someone would phone us. "Pan, pan, pan," a woman's voice crackles over the VHF. "All stations, this is the Prince Rupert Coast Guard." She repeats everything three times, I don't know why. "We have an overdue vessel." She goes on to describe a gillnetter that should have been in Rupert four days ago. Mom and Dad tense expectantly even though this has nothing to do with Jimmy.At any given moment, there are two thousand storms at sea.
Meet the Author
Eden Robinson is a thirty-one-year-old Haisla woman who grew up near Kitimat, British Columbia. Her previous collection, TRAPLINES, was awarded the Winifred Holtby Prize for the best first work of fiction by a Commonwealth writer and was a New York Times Editor's Choice and Notable Book of the Year.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Eden Robinson pulls you deep into the mind and spirit of the main character whose life is very different than mainstream America. The story is uplifting in spite of the very serious incidents involved.
Those are the only words I can use to describe this book. The blurry lines between reality and myth move smoothly and calmly, never forgetting to bring the reader along. Written in an easy flow of language, I was never left wondering what was going on or why. My only complaint would be the quickness with which it ends, almost abruptly. Otherwise, I highly recommend this book to anyone who wants to enjoy a fleeting moment in one girls life, a moment that creates an expansive landscape and story.