hadashi's Reviews > The Shipping News

The Shipping News by Annie Proulx
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's review
Jun 18, 2007

really liked it
Read in June, 2007

Won the Pulitzer in ’94, and rightly so – it’s a bleak, stark novel set in a bleak, stark place – Newfoundland – with enough hope and redemption to be realistic without being syrupy. Quoyle is a large mound of a loser human who has been a loser, and abused for it, all his life. After his nymphomaniac whore of a wife is killed in a car crash after selling their two kids, Bunny and Sunshine, to a kiddie pornographer, he starts over again by being dragged off to his ancestral home in Newfoundland with his tough-as-nails aunt, Agnis.
His redemption is not just in the slow blooming of love with a local woman, Wavey, who’s equally wounded. It’s more in the fact that by the end he has built a true family in the people of Killick-Claw, established himself as a true local with a true home, redeemed the family name, and become comfortable within himself and his capability for love. Some of the plot’s structural elements are difficult to read in its hideousness, because people are hideous. I loved the writing style – her descriptions of the violent, unpredictable land are beautiful, and Quoyle’s habit of framing situations as newspaper headlines is hilarious. The pace changes, from a slow, lyrical brushstroke to a lurching, staccato rattling of words, and the artistry never feels aware of itself. Proulx’s view of humanity may be bruising, but her sure, gentle guiding of them into their own, realistic, appropriate redemptions reveals a strong, hard-eyed hope that can still spark in a winter storm.
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