Winning both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize
is a rare honor, and this is a rare book.
Beautifully written, haunting, melancholy, and funny. Qyoyle has not enjoyed much success in
life. He is a mediocre newspaper man,
with a disastrous family life. His
adulterous wife runs off with her lover, tries to sell his daughters, and is
killed in a car crash. When his children
are returned to him, he must make a home and a life for them, but he is
overwhelmed by the task ahead of him. Quoyle’s
aunt persuades him to leave the city and return to their ancestral home in
Newfoundland, a place he had never visited. Quoyle finds work with the local
paper and sets about reclaiming his life.
In this isolated, stark landscape he just might put his torments to rest
and find joy.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Annie Proulx’s The Shipping News is a vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary North American family.
Quoyle, a third-rate newspaper hack, with a “head shaped like a crenshaw, no neck, reddish hair...features as bunched as kissed fingertips,” is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife meets her just desserts. An aunt convinces Quoyle and his two emotionally disturbed daughters to return with her to the starkly beautiful coastal landscape of their ancestral home in Newfoundland. Here, on desolate Quoyle’s Point, in a house empty except for a few mementos of the family’s unsavory past, the battered members of three generations try to cobble up new lives.
Newfoundland is a country of coast and cove where the mercury rarely rises above seventy degrees, the local culinary delicacy is cod cheeks, and it’s easier to travel by boat and snowmobile than on anything with wheels. In this harsh place of cruel storms, a collapsing fishery, and chronic unemployment, the aunt sets up as a yacht upholsterer in nearby Killick-Claw, and Quoyle finds a job reporting the shipping news for the local weekly, the Gammy Bird (a paper that specializes in sexual-abuse stories and grisly photos of car accidents).
As the long winter closes its jaws of ice, each of the Quoyles confronts private demons, reels from catastrophe to minor triumph—in the company of the obsequious Mavis Bangs; Diddy Shovel the strongman; drowned Herald Prowse; cane-twirling Beety; Nutbeem, who steals foreign news from the radio; a demented cousin the aunt refuses to recognize; the much-zippered Alvin Yark; silent Wavey; and old Billy Pretty, with his bag of secrets. By the time of the spring storms Quoyle has learned how to gut cod, to escape from a pickle jar, and to tie a true lover’s knot.
About the Author
Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection Close Range. Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story “Brokeback Mountain,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Her most recent novel is Barkskins. She lives in Seattle.
Stephen Jones Chicago Tribune The Shipping News is that rare creation, a lyric page-turner.
Bruce Allen USA Today The writing is charged with sardonic wit -- alive, funny, a little threatening; packed with brilliantly original images...and, now and then, a sentence that simply takes your breath away.
Roz Spafford San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle Annie Proulx's stunning, big-hearted The Shipping News thaws the frozen lives of its characters and warms readers.