Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx

After reading this book I had to process it, mull it over, and I must admit, watch the movie!  I also discussed it with the women at my book club before writing this.  At face value this is an interesting story with a bunch of weird characters. But dig a little deeper and there is a story of a misfit, neer-do-well man who comes to his own in the cold, austere Newfoundland.  (As I just wrote Newfoundland, I realized the significance of its name New – found – land).

Quoyle is a large, “a great damp loaf of a body”, man with a very prominent chin, of which he keeps his hand over most of his life.  He never quite fits in anywhere.  He falls into a job in newspapers through his only friend.  He meets his wife Petal in a bar.  She wants him only for sex.  While married she frequently brings home other men and he listens to them in living room.  They do manage to have two daughters, Bunny and Sunshine. 

Then all at once, Quoyle’s life changes;  his parents commit suicide, he loses his job and Petal takes the children and leaves.  She has left many times, but not with the children.  An Aunt shows up to help him through.    The police call, Petal is dead from a car accident, but the children are fine because she sold them.  Once the children are home the Aunt suggests they all move to Newfoundland ‘where their people are from.” 

In Newfoundland things slowly change.  He gets a job at the small newspaper there and through a cast of many wonderfully odd characters he finds is way again. 
“Quolye was not going back to New York.  If life was an arc of light that begins in darkness, ended in darkness, the first part of his life had happened in ordinary glare.  Here it was as though he had found a polarized lens that deepened and intensified all seen through it.”

Ms. Proulx’s writing was a little difficult at first.  Incomplete sentences.  But you get used to it.  Her descriptiveness was beautiful.
“Suddenly he could see his father, see the trail of ground cherry husks leading from the garden around the edge of the lawn where he walked while he ate them. The man had a passion for fruit. Quoyle remembered purple-brown seckle pears the size and shape of figs, his father taking the meat off with pecking bites, the smell of fruit in their house, litter of cores and peels in the ashtrays, the grape cluster skeletons, peach stones like hens' brains on the windowsill, the glove of banana peel on the car dashboard. In the sawdust on the basement workbench galaxies of seeds and pits, cherry stones, long white date pits like spaceships. . . . The hollowed grapefruit skullcaps, cracked globes of tangerine peel.”

Overall, it was well worth the trip!

4 Stars (Rated R – crude language and brief sex scenes)

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