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Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News is a vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family.

Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a “head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair...features as bunched as kissed fingertips,” is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle’s Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family’s unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives.

Newfoundland is a country of coast and cove where the mercury rarely rises above seventy degrees, the local culinary delicacy is cod cheeks, and it’s easier to travel by boat and snowmobile than on anything with wheels. In this harsh place of cruel storms, a collapsing fishery, and chronic unemployment, the aunt sets up as a yacht upholsterer in nearby Killick-Claw, and Quoyle finds a job reporting the shipping news for the local weekly, the Gammy Bird (a paper that specializes in sexual-abuse stories and grisly photos of car accidents).

As the long winter closes its jaws of ice, each of the Quoyles confronts private demons, reels from catastrophe to minor triumph—in the company of the obsequious Mavis Bangs; Diddy Shovel the strongman; drowned Herald Prowse; cane-twirling Beety; Nutbeem, who steals foreign news from the radio; a demented cousin the aunt refuses to recognize; the much-zippered Alvin Yark; silent Wavey; and old Billy Pretty, with his bag of secrets. By the time of the spring storms Quoyle has learned how to gut cod, to escape from a pickle jar, and to tie a true lover’s knot.

Topics: Daughters, American Author, 20th Century, Single Parent, Female Author, Nova Scotia, Small Town, Funny, Lyrical, Family, Maritime, Love, Made into a Movie, and Gritty

Published: Scribner on Jan 1, 2008
ISBN: 9780743519809
List price: $12.99
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Sumptuous writing read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
What is it about people who can’t articulate themselves very well making such good characters in novels? In this one, Quoyle is a hopeless case who may as well have Asperger’s Syndrome, he seems so doomed to failure in his relationships. He is rescued by his aunt (who has an interesting past all of her own) and his move to his ancestral home in Newfoundland. I was reminded of all the Newfie jokes I’ve ever heard through the years (yes, the inbreeding stories abound here, too), but I loved this story of how one man comes to understand who he is, and how to find love in a harsh environment. Like all Proulx novels, it’s quirky and comical, but this is the best Proulx novel of the lot.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
An attention holding plot, and evocative writing. My one criticism is that she does use similes quite often, and some of them really don't work too well, but aside from this irritation, a recommended read.read more
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
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Reviews

Sumptuous writing
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
What is it about people who can’t articulate themselves very well making such good characters in novels? In this one, Quoyle is a hopeless case who may as well have Asperger’s Syndrome, he seems so doomed to failure in his relationships. He is rescued by his aunt (who has an interesting past all of her own) and his move to his ancestral home in Newfoundland. I was reminded of all the Newfie jokes I’ve ever heard through the years (yes, the inbreeding stories abound here, too), but I loved this story of how one man comes to understand who he is, and how to find love in a harsh environment. Like all Proulx novels, it’s quirky and comical, but this is the best Proulx novel of the lot.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
An attention holding plot, and evocative writing. My one criticism is that she does use similes quite often, and some of them really don't work too well, but aside from this irritation, a recommended read.
Is this review helpful? Yes | NoThank you for your feedback.
I only read this recently, and was very impressed.
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Proulx's "happy book." A pretty amazing journey of one buffoon into character and laughter.
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A wonderfully easy and enjoyable book to read. Great quirky characters with real life experience.
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