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Caribou Island

3.38 of 5 stars 3.38  ·  rating details  ·  1,722 ratings  ·  405 reviews
On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, Gary and Irene’s marriage is unraveling. Following the outline of Gary’s old dream and trying to rebuild their life together, they are finally constructing the kind of cabin that drew them to Alaska in the first place. But the onset of an early winter and the overwhelming isolation of the prehistoric wild ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published January 3rd 2012 by Harper Perennial (first published 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Colleen Henderson
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
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 23, 2012 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
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
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
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
I wasn't feeling this one. In a word? Overwrought. I struggled to understand the actions of the characters and disliked that after a couple of chapters it was apparent how it would all end. In this regard it reminded me of The Book of Ruth. Still, the descriptions of Alaska and the sense of isolation these characters felt were cracking.
Lydia Presley
This book is .. there is no single word to describe it. Some words that come close are:

I was unprepared for the heavy, depressive feel of the story and, thinking back on it, I should have been prepared. The cover is dark, the setting is not known for it's warmth (thus inspiring feelings of joy), and, although I felt my mood descending with each page read, I couldn't tear my eyes or my thoughts away from the train-wreck of a story the people in Caribou Island were living.

I foun
This is the first book I've won from first reads and I was very excited when I first received it. However, my excitement died with the turn of each page. Let me start by saying that I really do like Vann's writing style, his attention to detail and the believability of his characters is flawless. I just didn't like the story. I'm not really a glass half empty or glass half full kind of person, more like, at least there's something in the glass kind of person. But this story is so damn depressing ...more
Mario Rufino
O meu texto, no Diário Digital, sobre "A Ilha de Caribou" de David Vann
Bem-vindos ao Inferno...
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
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
tex norman
This is strong on character development and the plot is clearly there, but what I liked about this book is that I cared about the characters. I was attracted by this because back in my twenties I did almost the same thing as the Gary, I build a log house. In this novel Gary, an aging guy who loves middle English literature and has huge problems with how his life turned out, and so he decides to build a log house on Caribou Island. But we know from the beginning that he is doing a piss-poor job o ...more
Kasa Cotugno
After 30 years of marriage, Gary is finally building a cabin in the Alaska wilderness, aided by his increasingly fragile wife Irene. This is a cabin under construction by a couple whose marriage is under dissolution. In his impatience, Gary, lacking proper knowledge, materials or tools or even plans, forges ahead with his dream. The cabin becomes a symbol of their marriage with fissures between ill placed logs and no way to seal them and keep out the elements.

Vann chillingly evokes the harsh lan
CoffeeBook Chick
I'm not sure what it is. But when a book is written without quotation marks around the dialogue, it just seems to make an already sad and depressing book even more so.

Now in their fifties, Gary and Irene have come to the conclusion that the unhappiness in life is totally the other person's fault, not their own. After thirty years of marriage and living in Alaska, Gary now has an obsession to build a one room cabin on Caribou Island, and Irene is supposed to help. No matter what, he will finish t
Bonnie Brody
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
Lisa Hall
Jan 12, 2013 Lisa Hall rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lisa by: Goodreads
A portrait of desolation, violence, and the darkness of the soul; it is an explosive novel that made me cringe more than once. However despite the flinching, immediately after finishing the last sentence, I wanted to explore in greater detail the author's thoughts on suicide as well as the intrigue of cold isolation that's the novel's Alaskan setting.

Mr. Vann previously wrote an acclaimed collection of short stories titled "Legend of a Suicide" that one suspects are a cathartic way to reason th
Jo Case
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.

The day before "Caribou Island" hit the top of my pile, a friend warned me off reading it. "Unexceptional ... doesn't have the colour I think you respond to" were her words. My wife then warned me off "The Suspicions of Mr Whicher", saying it "read like a dissertation--history, not story". My wife's caution hit the mark: I thought it was a story with a narrator and characters, not an impersonal recitation of history, so it's going back to the library tomorrow.

"Caribou Island", however, I enjoye
Helen (Helena/Nell)
I hated the style. Not the lack of speech marks round direct speech, which apparently annoys some readers,but the terse little verbless sentences. I thought them self-conscious and artificial. Easy to read though:

"Hollows inside him, only hollows. No substance. She had somehow blown the center out of him. He could see her face, when they had first gotten together, when it seemed that she loved him. Her smile a little hesitant, even, as if she were nervous too."

Very simple, but not high-class wri
The writing is great but this novel is so bleak – the setting, the weather, the lives of the characters. Just bleak.

Anyway, in a small town in Alaska, there’s a woman who’s dissatisfied with her life. She has unexplained head pain but doesn’t feel her family believes her and medical tests show nothing. She’s unable to sleep and no amount of medication eases the pain.

Her husband has a goal, a dream, to build a cabin on Caribou Island and live there permanently. He’s driven to see it through and
The writing is beautiful and the visual you get of Alaska as you read this book is as if you're there. What a story. There are several things going on at once. Irene and her husband Gary have a marriage that has been unraveling for years. And now he wants to build a small cabin on this island where the two of them will spend their retirement. It is a dream that he hasn't really thought through. Irene is very unhappy in the relationship so why she keeps going with him to the island to help build ...more
Inge Vermeire
Ik ben ervan overtuigd dat mijn leeservaringen vaak afhankelijk zijn van mijn eigen stemming. Zo kan een boek in een bepaalde fase van mijn leven perfect passen en op een ander moment helemaal tegenvallen. Het is met die gedachte dat ik ‘Caribou Island’ voor mezelf probeer te analyseren. Waarom beviel dit boek me nu zoveel minder dan ‘Legende van een zelfmoord’ of ‘Aarde’? De ingrediënten van Caribou Island zijn tenslotte grotendeels dezelfde: personages met grote verwachtingen over wat het leve ...more
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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
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“Because you can choose who you’ll be with, but you can’t choose who they’ll become.” 0 likes
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