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Caribou Island

3.42  ·  Rating Details ·  2,475 Ratings  ·  499 Reviews
“Dazzling…. Vann knows the darkness but he writes from the compassionate light of art.  This is an essential book.”  —Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

“Exceptional….An unflinching portrait of bad faith and bad dreams.” —Ron Rash, author of Burning Bright

Set against the backdrop of Alaska’s unforgiving wilderness, Cari
ebook, 320 pages
Published January 18th 2011 by HarperCollins e-books (first published 2010)
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Ivan Coelho I'm halfway there and i'm founding it fascinating. It's the first book I read from David Vann and I'm looking forward to read more. The characters'…moreI'm halfway there and i'm founding it fascinating. It's the first book I read from David Vann and I'm looking forward to read more. The characters' density, the environment (physical and emotional), the rythm and the metaphors are simply amazing. I'm really enjoying it. (less)

Community Reviews

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Will Byrnes
Caribou Island is a masterpiece. Set in the remote bleakness of water-soaked, small town Alaska, this is a tale of desperation, failure, of man-versus-nature but also of man so arrogant and self-involved, so removed from reality that he does not bother to properly prepare for the battle. Some hope is gleaned, some battles are won, but the war seen here is a dark, suffocating presence.
Alaska felt like the end of the world, a place of exile. Those who couldn’t fit anywhere else came here, and i
Sep 19, 2016 Cheri rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

Alaska’s beauty has a brutal edge. From a distance it appears calm and pristine, but the reality of living there can be harsh, unyielding. Chaos is part of its nature, a reflection of the chaos in the couple’s marriage, their lives, while at the same time adding to their chaos. A perfect storm gaining momentum.

Gary pictures himself as an ancient Viking; forever bonded to this wilderness, thriving, every attempt at nature to knock him down is countered with his conquering bellows. As part of his
Linda O'Donnell
"You can't have what no longer exists."

Brutally raw.....and that's not just an adequate descriptive for the glacier-fed lake on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula. Rugged terrain both in life and in the treacherous environment that surrounds both the body and the soul.

Gary and Irene seem to gravitate toward the light of a star that may not be their own. Gary continuously fights against the demons within that have tagged alongside him for all of his adult life. He casts his fate like coins thrown randomly
Dec 08, 2016 Marita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
All the characters in Caribou Island appear to be (metaphorically speaking) on the edge of a precipice on roller skates. It is an acutely observed novel about relationships gone awry, of relationships that have become toxic and of relationships on their way in doing so. Let’s take a closer look at the protagonists:

Gary & Irene - parents to Mark and Rhoda
Irene did not have a good start in life, as on page 1 (therefore not a spoiler) we learn that at the age of ten she discovered her mother ha
Aug 14, 2015 LeAnne rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dark-ity, dark-dark, dark! The beautiful Alaskan wilderness was as much a part of this story as its characters - a couple in their mid-50s setting about building (and arguing over) a tiny cabin and about their adult children. These people were drawn with outstanding depth and tone, and that is true for even sideline characters - the four friends and lovers who meander in and out of the tale.

Aside from Rhoda, the gentle hearted daughter, and a sweet side character named Carl, we see shards of th
I couldn’t put this book down. Even the moments when I wanted to throw it against the wall, Caribou Island stuck to my hands, the force of its narrative glue stronger than my desire to be rid of its woe and rage.

The backdrop is the great and terrible beauty of Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, where Nature’s threat looms in every scene. The opening pages show Irene and Gary, a couple in their mid-fifties, standing apart as their thirty-year marriage unravels between them while they battle a storm from
Mar 11, 2015 Josh rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2015
"Because you can choose who you'll be with, but you can't choose who they'll become."

This is a story of Gary and Irene, not of an island. The island exists physically and figuratively, but this is a story of them. Their love, envy and hatred of one another. His failings and her failure to realize it too quickly.

They've been together for thirty years, both in their middle 50's and retired; they have 2 children, one that loves and one that ignores. The men in the family have always done what they
Jan 22, 2011 Lou rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Check out my interview with David Vann in August 2012 >>

While reading this story i am thinking of the story Revolutionary Road written by Richard Yates a tale of marriage and the destructive behaviors of the human heart displayed in that story. If you have seen the movie it is probably even more engrained in your mind the images of despair and the path the couple found themselves down. The pursuit of happiness its funny how we try to at
Mar 29, 2016 Teresa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-usa, e5
(Mel Bochner - Amazing, 2014)
Feb 17, 2017 Banushka rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
david vann'ı, semih gümüş'ün "mutlaka okuyun" dediği yazarlarla dolu bir tvit serisinden not etmiştim. yine haklı çıktı. okurken dağılıyorsunuz, bitince daha da dağılıyorsunuz. o doğa anlatımı, alaska'nın beni bile oturduğum yerde nefret ettiren iklimi, hayatı, atmosferi, balıkçılık detayları... nasıl bir ustalık.
tabii ki bu kadar değil, otuz yıllık evli bir çiftin geldiği yer, geçirdikleri değişim ve hep bir tarafın istediklerinin olmasının katlanılmaz yükü. irene için o kadar o kadar üzüldüm
Apr 30, 2013 A-bookworm rated it did not like it
David Vann uses no quotation marks throughout this bleak depressing read. Is his refusal to use quotation marks supposed to be some new "Style" of writing, like texting? Why not just throw out all punctuation? We could all write in one long rambling paragraph. Eventually we could even leave out the spacing between words. I HATE what is being done to literature by those too lazy, or too unlearned, to write properly.

Vann's imagination is just so bleak, so depressing, he should see a doctor. He ob
João Carlos
Feb 24, 2013 João Carlos rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: l2015
5 Estrelas Glaciares

Caribou Island - Alaska

O escritor norte-americano David Vann, nascido em 1996 em Adak Island, no Alasca, publicou em 2011 ”A Ilha de Caribou”, três anos após o “perturbante” ”A Ilha de Sukkwan” - 4 Estrelas.
Irene, é uma educadora de infância, recentemente reformada e Gary, é um docente universitário a trabalhar “eternamente” na sua tese de doutoramento, casados há mais de trinta anos, têm dois filhos; Rhoda, com cerca de trinta anos, assistente num consultório veterinário, v
Cold. Distant. Bleak. Unhappy. Depressing as fuck.

The characters are largely unlikeable, the relationships are thoroughly dysfunctional, and the style keeps the reader (or at least me) at arm's length throughout. Part of this distance is due to David Vann's Cormac McCarthy-esque refusal to use quotation marks to help mark characters' speech. This doesn't make it difficult to tell who is speaking, but it does diminish the sense of the characters as active participants in the story. Because the te
Rebecca Foster
My first encounter with David Vann blew me away. I’d heard his work compared to Cormac McCarthy’s in terms of bleakness, along the lines of: “The Road is a picnic in the park compared to Caribou Island.” Although there are ways in which Vann’s work resembles McCarthy’s (no quotation marks to denote speech, epic-scale tragedies taking place in vast open country), Blood Meridian, for one, is much more violent and nihilistic than Caribou Island.

The novel’s gory final tableau may have reminded me o
switterbug (Betsey)
This is a richly absorbing and dark, domestic drama that combines the natural, icy world of the Alaska frontier with a story of deceptive love and betrayal. If Steinbeck and Hemingway married the best of Anita Shreve, you would get David Vann's Caribou Island. His prose is terse and the characterizations are subtle, but knifing. His characters are saturated with loneliness and disconnection with their lives, with each other, in a pit of misperception, despair and exile, in a conflict of selves t ...more
Nov 30, 2010 Jill rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: best-of-2011
Not long ago, I was mesmerized by David Vann’s exceptional and perceptive collection, Legend of a Suicide – a mythology of his father’s death. I wondered whether his first full-length novel would capture the magic and raw energy of that astonishing book.

The answer, I’m pleased to say, is yes.

Beware: Caribou Island is NOT for readers who are looking for “likeable characters” and Hollywood-type endings. It ventures into dark emotional territory that’s not always comfortable to reside in – the same
Carlos Azevedo
Aug 29, 2016 Carlos Azevedo rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Depois de Aquário e desta "Ilha de Caribou", já enfiei Vann no mausoléu dos grandes escritores.

A vida está quase a abandonar-nos, ou nós a ela, e mesmo antecipando isso, não somos capazes de reagir a tempo.

A ilusão da vida pura nos grandes espaços não é um tema original, mas é a forma como flui com Vann que o torna de novo fascinante. O lugar imenso do Alasca.
Alaska felt like the end of the world, a place of exile. Those who couldn't fit anywhere else came here, and if they couldn't cling to anything here, they just fell off the edge. These tiny towns in a great expanse, enclaves of despair.

The sentence above, uttered by one of its characters, could summarize David Vann’s elegantly bleak debut novel, Caribou Island. (His previously published work, Legend of a Suicide, was a critically acclaimed collection of short stories.)

From the moment we meet Ire
Bree T
I feel as though this book should almost come with some sort of warning. It should be a bible for everyone out there who thinks they want to go and build a cabin somewhere in isolation and live there. Because chances are, they don’t know what they’re doing, don’t really want to go and actually do that and….that’ll be the least of the things that can go wrong.

Gary and Irene have lived in Alaska for 30 years. Drifting there by accident, somehow staying. Gary is a restless sort, he has many grand p
Aug 14, 2011 Jodie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favourites, 2011
I love books like this. The characters so internal, the setting so riveting and used as so much more than a reflection of its characters. This book is not a happy read, indeed it is bleak and desolate, yet I found myself smirking at Irenes dialogue, she knows her lot in life and she is resigned to it, well at least she was, existing with a husband that is so fraught with illusions of grandeur that he constantly fails to see the essence that is his life, and this is just one of his many failings. ...more
Filipe Miguel
Sep 01, 2012 Filipe Miguel rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: horror, romance, suspense
Regresso ao Alasca, regresso ao drama

A praia de David Vann é, sem duvida, o drama. O drama depressivo, não o ligeiro apimentado aqui e ali com pitadas de comédia. David é brilhante no desmembramento das personagens e impressiona na sua capacidade de criar desconforto.

Por vezes soa a Kafka, pela forma como nos agita e desfaz o mundo que conhecemos. Insiste em demonstrar também algo de nórdico, patente na escolha dos cenários onde insere as personagens, como as trata e como as dispõe. Ao mesmo te
Mar 15, 2011 Lisa rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Colleen Henderson
Apr 12, 2011 Colleen Henderson rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This book was awful. The characters are poorly delineated, and as a consequence they lack depth and emotional richness. The story line had potential, but was not fully developed - there were too many questions left unanswered. Was the main character traumatized by childhood events, or was she driven to despair by a cold, thoughtless husband and children that were very self absorbed? I kept reading because I kept hoping somehow the book would get better and the author would pull it all together, ...more
Jan 25, 2011 Jasmine marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
I have finally become too self absorbed. I had a very bad moment today.

I was surfing goodreads and I did that thing where you see an ad while you are clicking to the next page but I just saw a name. I clicked back but I got a different ad. So I searched, was david vann who I thought he was? he was and he had a new book.


So I immediately took my self down to the store with my poor impulse control and bought it (and the top
May 14, 2014 Brian rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Brian by: Proustitute
Apr 01, 2017 Eli rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Venia de llegir l'Aquari i m'ha semblat més fosc i més dens. Algunes trames o personatges em sobraven o se m'han fet pesades.
Jo Case
Mar 15, 2013 Jo Case rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novel
Isaiah Berlin once divided writers into hedgehogs, who view the world through the lens of one defining idea, and foxes, who draw on a variety of experiences and ideas. (Proust was a hedgehog, Shakespeare was a fox.) It’s rather early in David Vann’s literary career to be making broad pronouncements, but so far he’s displaying distinct hedgehog characteristics – as did Richard Yates (Revolutionary Road), who Vann echoes in his precise mapping of the dreams and neuroses of middle-class America.

Teresa Lukey
I can surely see why this book does not have a higher average rating for the characters in this story are absolutely dreadful. Unlikable characters do make it difficult, for me, to rate a book, but the shock value at the end of the book really gave it an extra boost, something akin to Rebecca.

This is a story of Gary and Irene, a married couple, whose relationship has gone rancid. The couple struggles to get along with each other through the humdrum of their day-to-day activities, but they have l
Aug 08, 2011 Christy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a bruiser. I felt like I'd been hit by a truck when I finished it. The next morning, I attempted to explain it to my husband and he said "what made you continue reading it?" For me, and really anyone who enjoys fiction, it's the chance to safely explore dangerous situations, and the call of a good story. For lovers of gothic, it's the visceral response: the blood pumping, skin tingling feeling of anxiety, while your mind races along with the arc of the story. Like watching a train wreck ...more
Bonnie Brody
Feb 28, 2012 Bonnie Brody rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Many people think of Alaska as wildness with great open spaces in a mountainous wildernous with sub-arctic cold, dark and long winters, ever-light summers, bears and moose. This is not the Alaska of David Vann. His Alaska consists of what sounds like an area most likely the Tongass National Rain Forest. This is the northernmost rainforest on earth, and it extends into southeast Alaska. Trees here are huge but grow close together here much like in the Amazon. It rains up to 400 inches a year in t ...more
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2015 Reading Chal...: Caribou Island by David Vann 2 12 Jun 08, 2015 03:18PM  
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Published in 19 languages, David Vann’s internationally-bestselling books have won 15 prizes, including best foreign novel in France and Spain and, most recently, the $50,000 St. Francis College Literary Prize 2013, and appeared on 70 Best Books of the Year lists in a dozen countries. He has written for the Atlantic Monthly, Esquire, Outside, Men’s Health, Men’s Journal, The Sunday Times, The Obse ...more
More about David Vann...

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“Because you can choose who you’ll be with, but you can’t choose who they’ll become.” 5 likes
“He hadn't yet seen his life wasted, hadn't yet understood the pure longing for what was really a kind of annihilation. A desire to see what the world can do, to see what you can endure, to see, finally, what you're made of as you're torn apart. A kind of bliss to annihilation, to being wiped away. "But ever he has longing, he who sets out on the sea", and this longing is to face the very worst, a delicate hope for a larger wave.” 0 likes
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