I requested “Caribou Island”, by David Vann, from the e-library a number of months ago, so by the time I actually checked it out I’d forgotten what it was going to be about. With an ebook there isn’t a back cover or inside jacket to peak at for the synopsis so I just dove in. Chilly waters!!
The story is about the thirty year marriage of Gary and Irene coming undone. Gary’s life is a litany of diverted plans, botched schemes and failed dreams. Irene is haunted by a tragic past and is dealing with a mysterious illness. She senses that Gary is trying to leave her in some way.
The setting is the isolated, prehistoric wilderness of the Kenai Peninsula in Alaska. Winter is rapidly approaching and Gary is determined to build a cabin on the even more remote Caribou Island. It symbolizes redemption for him. As with all Gary’s ideas, there is very little planning for the construction and it seems doomed from the beginning. Irene attempts to help in the construction despite knowing that it isn’t going to work and that they aren’t going to be able to survive a winter out there.
Vann’s prose is spare and dark. He vividly paints a scene of desolation, despair and unravelling psyches. His words pull you into that stark Alaskan landscape. It’s a very powerful and moving book. I do recommend it as a great read, but, please know that it is not going to be a light romp.