Literature: David Vann’s Caribou Island

Title: Caribou Island // Author: David Vann // Publisher: HarperCollins // Pub. Date: January 18, 2011 // 304 p.

David Vann’s Caribou Island was released by HarperCollins earlier this week, and even though the nearest book store is at least a frozen ocean away, I was able to have a prepub copy handed off to me here at McMurdo Station. I’m glad I did. Caribou Island is the story of a retired couple’s attempt to chase the ultimate homesteader’s dream: a cabin, on an island, in Alaska. But unfortunately for Gary and Irene, this dream is thirty years deferred, and the quest to build a cabin from scratch offsets the balance they’ve somehow managed to maintain all of these years in their marriage.

Vann offers expert natural descriptions, and he creates places that mirror the psychological terrain his characters tread. Once I started reading this book, I didn’t want to put it down, mainly because I got sucked into the juicy subplot’s drama. But some of the characters in this book are a bit shallow—and shallowly written. Despite that, Van makes up for what these characters lack by turning the Alaskan landscape into a beautiful, full-bodied aspect of the story.

Final word: Caribou Island is equal parts drama, tragedy, and intrigue. Vann ratchets the tension just tight enough that you’ll know something is about to happen the entire time, and yet when it does, you’ll still be surprised.

CLICK HERE for a link to my review of David Vann’s Caribou Island on the About.com Contemprary Literature website.

Photo credit: HarperCollins

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