by David Vann
I didn\’t like this book. Halfway through I started skimming so much I really ought to call it Abandoned. It\’s about a couple in Alaska trying to build a log cabin on a small island, while their marriage is falling apart. The husband, Gary, has always rushed headlong into projects without adequate planning and then gets frustrated at the inevitable failure: this cabin is no different. It was really ridiculous that the island already had a cabin- one that Gary admired and tried to copy, but couldn\’t. Why didn\’t they just live in that one, cut down some trees for the view? It made no sense. Through all their difficult work (in endlessly bad weather), the wife is suffering from debilitating headaches that doctors can\’t find a cause for. She\’s bitter at being dragged into the building project which she doesn\’t care about, and seems to harbor years of resentment against her husband. There\’s a lengthy side story about their grown children, one of whom is cheating on his girlfriend with a tourist. I don\’t know why that was such a large part of the plot, it felt pointless. I didn\’t care about any of these people. I did like the descriptions of the wide landscape. Nature was beautiful, but the weather terribly oppressive- the cold, wet and relentless wind are emphasized. It\’s full of miserable people wallowing around in their unhappiness and ineptitude with relationships, career choices, building projects and all. The ending is horrible. (Something awful happens right on the last page).
Oh, and I was once again thrown off by the sameness of conversation and thought. This book has no quotation marks whatsoever. I suppose it heightens the sense of unease, not being able to trust your own senses, not knowing for sure if something is spoken aloud- or maybe it\’s a style thing, to make it feel seamless. But on the heels of a different book which overused quotation marks to the same effect, it was just annoying.
I should have known better. I picked this up off a library shelf recognizing the author- I did like his book Aquarium not so long ago. But I had a sense from other reviews that most of his works are very dark, and they weren\’t kidding. I don\’t think I will pick up any more by this author.
Borrowed from the public library.
Rating: 1/5 293 pages, 2011