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Caribou Island

3.43  ·  Rating details ·  2,775 ratings  ·  534 reviews

On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska's Kenai Peninsula, a marriage is unraveling. Gary, driven by thirty years of diverted plans, and Irene, haunted by a tragedy in her past, are trying to rebuild their life together. Following the outline of Gary's old dream, they're hauling logs to Caribou Island in good weather and in terrible storms, in sickness and in he

Hardcover, 293 pages
Published January 18th 2011 by Harper (first published 2010)
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Barry Yes. Although it is uncompromising and grim, it is superbly written. It reveals the banal, commonplace evil hidden in human hearts that most of us…moreYes. Although it is uncompromising and grim, it is superbly written. It reveals the banal, commonplace evil hidden in human hearts that most of us share to some degree, and as such is an excellent cautionary tale. I would especially recommend it to anyone who is plunging into marriage without giving it some serious thought: do you really know this person? I was never troubled by Vann's lack of quotation marks. (less)

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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 rated it it was amazing

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
"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 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 rated it it was amazing
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
Mar 11, 2015 rated it really liked it
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
Julie Christine
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
Jan 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 17, 2017 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
Teresa Proença
Mar 29, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: n-eua, 5e
(Mel Bochner - Amazing, 2014)
Nov 30, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Apr 30, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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 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
Jan 25, 2011 rated it it was ok
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
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)
Feb 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing
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
Mai Laakso
Alaskassa syntyneen David Vannin Kylmä saari vangitsi minut heti ensimmäiseltä sivulta otteeseensa. Kirjan henkilöt isä, äiti ja aikuiset lapset asuvat Alaskassa ja hyytävät tapahtumat leijailevat kiihtyvällä vauhdilla pitkin kirjaa, kunnes niiden on aika räjähtää lukijan silmille. Oletko valmis avioliittodraaman tapahtumille? Oletko valmis vuosikymmenten ilkeilylle, joka nyt on saavuttanut lakipisteensä? Oletko valmis mökin rakennuspuuhiin pienellä, karulla saarella syksyn hyytävässä säässä? Ra ...more
Nuno Simões
a premissa (suicídio) é interessante e a essência (o aspecto melancólico e depressivo espaciotemporal e da vida das personagens em si) agradou-me. o autor apresenta uma escrita escorreita e deixou-me com vontade de o voltar a ler. qual é então o meu problema com este livro para não ir além das 3 estrelas? a narrativa é inconsistente, há passagens francamente más e inverosímeis que me deram, variadas vezes, a sensação de estar a ler partes de um argumento feito para Hollywood. 6/10
Aug 14, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2011, favourites
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
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
Nov 23, 2010 rated it liked it
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
Filipe Miguel
Sep 01, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: romance, suspense, horror
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 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2011
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Colleen Henderson
Apr 12, 2011 rated it did not like it
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 marked it as to-read
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
Carlos Azevedo
Aug 29, 2016 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.
Jordi Sellarès
Aug 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pur David Vann. Pur drama familiar ambientat a la seva Alaska natal. Un llibre sobre vides engegades a rodar, sobre els sentiments intrincats on s'aguanten les relacions afectives i familiars, sobre veritats i mentides. Un llibre que fa reflexionar de mala manera.
May 14, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Brian by: Proustitute
Apr 01, 2017 rated it liked it
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 rated it it was amazing
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.

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2015 Reading Chal...: Caribou Island by David Vann 2 13 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
“Because you can choose who you’ll be with, but you can’t choose who they’ll become.” 6 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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