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The year is 1985 and 22-year-old Galen lives with his emotionally dependent mother in a secluded old house with a walnut orchard in a suburb of Sacramento. He doesn't know who his father is, his abusive grandfather is dead, and his grandmother, losing her memory, has been shipped off to a nursing home. Galen and his mother survive on old family money—an inheritance that his Aunt Helen and 17-year-old cousin, Jennifer, are determined to get their hands on.
A bulimic vegetarian who considers himself an old soul, Galen is a New Age believer on a warpath towards transcendence, practising meditation, firewalking, etheric surgery and authentic movement. He yearns for transformation: to free himself from the corporeal, to be as weightless as air, to walk on water. But he's powerless to stop the manic binges that overtake him, leading him to gorge on meat and other forbidden desires, including sex. A prisoner of his body, he is obssessed with thoughts of the boldly flirtatious Jennifer, and dreams of shedding himself of the clinging mother whose fears and needs also weigh him down.
When the family takes a trip to an old cabin in the Sierras, near South Lake Tahoe, tensions come to a climax. Caught in a compromising position, Galen will discover the shocking truth of just how far he will go to attain the transcendence he craves. 
 

Reviews

PRAISE FOR DAVID VANN

PRH, PRH

'A piece of relentless, heartbreaking brilliance that bears comparison with Cormac McCarthy's The Road.' Weekend Australian (Legend of a Suicide)

PRH, PRH

'Like McCarthy's The Road, there were times when I wanted this brutal, honest novel to stop. Not to end but to stop, so I could catch my breath and put some distance between myself and Vann's desperate characters...In Caribou Island, Vann, who has turned his boyhood pain and confusion into a clear-eyed understanding of the human condition, has broadened his canvas and honoured his promise as one of the most exciting writers at work today.' Weekend Australian

PRH, PRH

PRH, PRH

'A novel as precise and unflinching as this makes other recently celebrated books seem melodramatic. Caribou Island proves that art wrought from personal pain and obsessed with negative emotion can still be profoundly positive.' Canberra Times

PRH, PRH

'Extraordinary...Vann has written something truly memorable, disturbing and heartbreaking.' Courier-Mail

PRH, PRH

'Greatness has arrived.' Outside magazine

PRH, PRH

'Like Melville, Faulkner, and McCarthy, Vann is already one of the great ones of American literature.' ABC (Spain)

PRH, PRH

'One of the best writers of his generation.' Le Figaro (France)

PRH, PRH

'Caribou Island gets to places other novels can't touch…Though it wears the clothes of realism—the beautiful exactness of the language, the unerring eye for detail—it takes us someplace darker, older, more powerful than the daylit world.' Kevin Canty, New York Times Book Review

PRH, PRH

'Vann has written a novel that breaks out of the autobiographical boundaries of his own grief and exposes our friable ties to those we love…Despite the crushing sorrow of Caribou Island, it progresses with tremendous momentum…[Vann] handles conflicted feelings of love and resentment, and the raw, existential cries of ordinary people, extraordinarily well. And although he's a graceful writer, he never spins the kind of poetic prose that infects too many literary novels with distracting prettiness. …For a few moments after this perfectly choreographed horror, it's impossible to say anything at all.' Ron Charles, Washington Post

PRH, PRH

'Moving, powerful…Vann's people are hurtling irretrievably toward a dark outcome, and while putting the book down might save you from it, you can't stop reading, just as you can't unlearn its truths.' Caitlin Roper, Los Angeles Times

PRH, PRH

'In this exceptional first novel by the celebrated author of Legend of a Suicide, an oncoming Alaska winter becomes metaphor as a troubled marriage moves implacably toward a bleak reckoning. Caribou Island is an unflinching portrait of bad faith and bad dreams.' Ron Rash, author of Serena

PRH, PRH

'Compelling. As the plot moves toward a gruesome finale, the reader is submerged in 'slow waves of pressure, water compacting but no edge to it.'' The New Yorker

PRH, PRH

'Caribou Island is a beautiful, richly atmospheric if unsettling novel, and deserves to consolidate Vann's position among America's literary high flyers.' Melanie McGrath, London Evening Standard

PRH, PRH

'[Vann] has come fully into his own voice, from the striking opening scene to the fateful final sentence.... An oddly exhilarating horror story in which human demons spring from the smoke of their own disappointment and regret. Caribou Island earns Vann a seat beside the masters. A+' Sheerly Avni, San Francisco Magazine

PRH, PRH

'[Vann uses] American landscape as a metaphor to tremendous effect…Vann's brilliance as a writer lies in his willingness to expose everything… A writer to read and reread; a man to watch carefully.' Economist

PRH, PRH

'Stoic, immoveable, enduring, self-contained, tough.' Guardian

PRH, PRH

'Everything that made Legend so absorbing, and rightly acclaimed, is here deepened and strengthened. . . . Caribou Island is a novel of fine artistry and stark emotional truth—full of our darkest currents and faintest sounds.' Tom Gatti, The Times

PRH, PRH

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Formats & editions

  • Trade Paperback

    9781921922572

    April 26, 2012

    Text

    240 pages

    RRP $29.99

    Online retailers

    • Abbey's Bookshop
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    Or

    Find your local bookstore at booksellers.org.au

Also by David Vann

Bright Air Black
Aquarium
A Mile Down: The True Story of a Disastrous Career at Sea
Goat Mountain
Caribou Island
Legend Of A Suicide

Recommendations

The Handmaid's Tale
To Kill A Mockingbird
A Gentleman in Moscow
Echo Burning
Best Laid Plans
The Heart's Invisible Furies
The Girl on the Train
Dragonfly In Amber
The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-time
The Golden Age
The Golden House
Swing Time
The Bear and The Nightingale
The Mistress
The Girls
Tiger Men
Fifty Shades Darker
The Secret Vineyard
Ready Player One