Caribou Island by David Vann

Title: Caribou Island

Author: David Vann

Genre: Fiction

About: (Goodreads synopsis)  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, the …more

My thoughts: 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 his wife, who doesn’t share his dream, will not be a reason to stop. They refuse to see the other’s point of view which makes them bitter and angry people.  Their adult daughter seems to be on a path to repeat her mother’s mistakes.  Their son lives nearby but prefers to ignore his family, work his day jobs and get high at night.  David Vann’s story builds slowly but solidly to a dramatic conclusion.

I don’t want to give any more away.  If this piques your interest I think Caribou Island might be the book for you.

Recommend? Yes.  Though I found the novel quite dark, Vann’s sharp and evocative writing kept me reading almost nonstop. I will definitely look for more of his books.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Source: Harper via Goodreads First Reads

24 thoughts on “Caribou Island by David Vann

  1. Hi Mary,

    Great review, sounds like one of those books that you can’t help but ‘love to hate’.

    The synopsis doesn’t pull any punches either.

    I have never come across the author before, but this is a definite must read for me.

    Thanks for the recommendation


  2. I’m definitely adding this to my list although I can see where it would be dark. Maybe I’ll wait til summer when its 100 degrees and I’ll welcome the bleakness of the winter setting. 🙂 Great job with the review, Mary!


    • Lisa, I thought that my reading it while a winter storm raged might play a part in the darkness. I’ll be sure to watch for your (summertime) review 🙂


  3. Mary, thanks for the review of this book. I was wondering if it was going to be a little dark and you answered that! Have a great day and stay safe and warm with all your snow!


  4. I am so glad to see you gave this one a good rating. I’ve read about it a few times and it intrigued me. Now I think I’ll pick it up. I love the cover on it. Even the cover portrays darkness.


  5. i’m happy to see that you gave this book a high rating. i have it sitting on my bookcase already so now i just need to find the time to actually sit down and read it.


  6. It sounds like a good story but I would have to be in the right mood for it. Maybe after the snow melts and the sun warms up my part of the planet.


  7. I don’t know, a dark book about a marriage kind of worries me. Maybe it would make me start second guessing all of my own relationships!


  8. This one has definitely been getting a fair amount of press lately. It sounds like one I would enjoy digging into if I find myself in the right mood. I’d probably recommend this for my book club since it sounds like a book that would have me wanting to discuss it with someone else.


  9. Almost everything I’ve read about this one describes it the same way – dark. It hasn’t turned me off completely though and now I think I want to add it to the list. Thanks!


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