Jeni's Reviews > Caribou Island

Caribou Island by David Vann
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's review
May 09, 2011

it was ok

Caribou Island begins on a somber note. One of the main characters describes finding her mother dead, having hanged herself. Nevertheless, I managed to find the tone of the book in the first 60 pages or so innocuous, at times even lightly comic. I thought Irene's melodramatic response to her headaches and Gary's shoddy materials and unrealistic plans for his cabin somewhat farcical and amusing.

Either I wasn't paying attention during the beginning pages or the novel's tone is uneven at the outset and then steadily makes a strange and upsetting transformation into the dark and disturbing. I felt like I had been led to hope for a novel of trial and possible redemption, then tricked and made to suffer a grotesque and hellish ending.

In large part, I think I was misled because I never felt entirely convinced or sympathetic of Irene's neurosis. Yes, she had a traumatic event in childhood and yes, her marriage of 30 years is unhappy, but when/how/why does she become such a demented whack job? Her actions at the end of the book do not seem authentic to me; rather they seem sensational, purposefully over the top.
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