Books on GIF #64 — 'The Shipping News' by Annie Proulx


This Sunday's book is 'The Shipping News' by Annie Proulx. 
I LOVED THIS BOOK!! It's so good. I wish I had read it earlier this year so I could have put it in the holiday gift round up that I sent last week. Give this novel to somebody! They'll love it. Reading it is like: 

The sentences in this novel, which won the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, are so beautiful it seems they were written to be read aloud, which I did for Donna several times. Flip to any page, and there's a vivid metaphor on it. I just randomly opened to page 203 and found: 'Quoyle was incensed, some well of anger like a dome of oil beneath innocuous sand, tapped and gushing.' Isn't that wonderful? I'm like: 
Quoyle is the protagonist of this quirky and uplifting tale. He's oafish and awkward, both physically and socially. He feels bad about his chin and puts his hand on it when he feels uncomfortable, like: 

Quoyle's had a joyless life when we first meet him. His parents, particularly his father, are horrible. His brother is terrible. His wife, Petal Bear, is awful and unfaithful. Things start to turn around for him when Petal Bear dies in a flaming car crash after she sells their two daughters, Bunny and Sunshine, for cash and runs off with a paramour. (The two girls are retrieved safely.) His parents then kill themselves in a suicide pact (trust me, this book is truly uplifting), and their death brings him into contact with his paternal aunt, Agnis. She encourages Quoyle and his children to relocate with her to their family's ancestral home in Newfoundland. So they pack up Quoyle's station wagon and off they go:
The story really gets going once they reach the town of Killick-Claw, where they move into the abandoned and falling-down Quoyle family homestead and meet a bunch of lovely townsfolk. Quoyle gets a job at the local paper, 'The Gammy Bird,' where he is assigned to write about car wrecks and the shipping news —recording ships that come and go from the harbor. The job helps Quoyle believe in himself, and by the end of the book he finds purpose and love. I don't want to give anything away, but the story has great scenes involving murder, hard winters at sea and the newspaper business. The newspaper parts were, for me, some of the most interesting, as they not only harkened back to the glory days and romance of print news, but also foreshadowed the business's current struggle to find revenue and audience amid a general mood of:
My favorite scene was when Agnis secretly dumps Quoyle's evil father's ashes down the outhouse pit, so she, her nephew and his daughters would relieve themselves on his remains. I loved how this book metes out justice! 'The Shipping News' is about people coming together to help each other through adversity, whether it's caused by family, work or the weather. Each chapter includes a blurb describing a type of knot, which sets the tone for what the chapter is about. I found these descriptions interesting, and I also liked how they reinforced the overall theme of people being tied together either by blood, circumstance or love. Sometimes those linkages chafe. Sometimes they help you keep it together. When I thought about where Quoyle started in this book, and how the connections he made enriched not only his life, but also those around him, it made me happy, like: 

As I was reading this book, I was thinking, 'They made a movie out of this, right?' They did, and it stars Kevin Spacey as Quoyle. This upset me, not only because of the current headlines about Spacey, but also because the character seems nothing like the actor. I imagined someone who looked more like me when I conjured Quoyle in my mind. So, I'm going to skip the film. But don't you skip this book!

My rating:
'The Shipping News' by Annie Proulx was published in 1993 and 2003 by Scribner. 337 pages. 

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What's next? In the coming weeks Books on GIF will review 'Personal History' by Katharine Graham and 'Star Wars: Splinter of the Mind's Eye' by Alan Dean Foster before taking a short break to gear up for 2018. 

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* Thanks especially to Donna for copy editing this review!