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Publisher's Summary

On a small island in a glacier-fed lake on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula, Gary and Irene’s marriage is unraveling. Alone now that the children are grown, Gary, driven by 30 years of diverted plans, is determined to build from scratch the cabin he has always wanted, believing it will recapture what once drew him to Alaska. Irene knows better. She suspects that the cabin is Gary’s first step to leaving her.

Soon they are hauling logs out to Caribou Island in good weather and in terrible storms, in sickness and in health. But setbacks begin to create chinks in Gary’s half-baked design, while Irene is stricken with mysterious headaches and troubling flashes of her tragic past. With each trip to the island their desperation escalates, and when winter comes early, the punishing desolation of the prehistoric wilderness will threaten to push Irene and Gary to the edge and end a marriage sustained by pain and rage that has been simmering for years.

A noir novel rooted in a world of profound violence and regret, Caribou Island is an exploration of marriage and exile set against the interminable restlessness of Alaska’s primal landscape.

©2011 David Vann (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“Vann… renders luminous prose in this haunting tale of hardened hearts and broken dreams.” (Booklist)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

Overall

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Story

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  • Overall

Stunning story!

I can only echo what the previous reviewer had to say. In fact, I almost gave up on this book because the characters seemed so inhospitable and unapproachable, in some ways like the setting. Somewhere in about the middle of the story, things started to get more interesting, and I could not put the book down. As the situations are set up and it becomes obvious how life has gradually stripped these people from their souls, their life force, their energies, the story comes to its only logical conclusion. In some ways this book is cautionary tale, and I, too, am still thinking about it.

9 of 9 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Thought-provoking, for good or for bad.

I finished this audiobook a few hours ago and I'm still thinking about it. I'm an audiobook junkie (as my credit card bill will reflect) and listen everyday. This one is sticking with me, perhaps not in a good way, but I can't stop thinking about these characters. David Vann somehow has taken the most mundane situations and turned them into nail-biters. The funny thing about this book is you really don't even like most of the characters. I suspect this might be because I see myself in them and I don't like what I see. Caribou Island is a case study in the intensely difficult realm of personal relationships and he does not pull any punches. Also, Bronson Pinchot does a great job with the narration. It never pulls you away from the story, which to me is the best thing a narrator can do. Get this book. You won't be sorry. Or maybe you will be, but it won't be because of the writer.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • daniel
  • Hamlin, WV, United States
  • 04-13-11

Great Listen

By far the best book I have got from audible. Its refreshing to find an author who doesn't write to comfort the reader. There are no good guys or bad guys here just the raw side of life. Along with vivid description of Alaska and Vanns refreshing brutal style I think Vann is author to keep an eye out for in the future.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Worst book I've ever read our listened to

The only good thing about this book was the narrator. He did an excellent job. But the story was dismal. There was nothing but miserable, victim-type people and no character development. I listened to the entire thing, expecting some redeeming qualities; there were none.

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • eric
  • Richmond, VA
  • 02-14-15

Cold & Dark

Great portrayal of a very ill family & the ripple effect of action and inaction. And that's all I have thanks


  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • J
  • Medfield, Morocco
  • 08-10-14

Immature author tries to write about grown ups

Would you try another book from David Vann and/or Bronson Pinchot?

The author knows how to write, but is clueless about the interactions of couples with family members and what motivates them all. It has the POV of an inexperienced adolescent trying to understand his inscrutable parents' behavior, but is presented using the "all-knowing" critical adult voice of the author. He should try again after 10 - 15 years of meaningful life experience, and perhaps the reader will learn something meaningful from him.

What character would you cut from Caribou Island?

The narrator

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

Brilliant Oppression

What did you love best about Caribou Island?

It is extraordinary, the way David Vann builds up the sense of futility and mortality in ordinary peoples lives through a series of ordinary events. By the time the story reaches its climax, the sense of oppression hanging over each character's destiny is almost unbearable.

What did you like best about this story?

The denoument is terrible and cathartic, and then life goes on, superficially not much different than before.

Any additional comments?

It's kind of like the drama of mortality that hangs over and ultimately destoys each of our lives, however well we try to live them.

1 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • Nicholas
  • Chicago, IL, United States
  • 10-26-11

Great narration of a good story

I must admit that I chose this book based more on Bronson Pinchot than the actual story. After listening to it I still feel the same. It was a decent overall story appealing to anyone nearing their midlife crisis, but was not followed through in the details. There was a lot of explanations regarding scenery, etc. that failed to paint the whole picture. I have also grown tired of seemingly every book I seem to listen to spending too much time on sexual storylines that I feel add very little to the story. All in all I did not regret this listen, but it may have simply received higher marks due to the narrator.

  • Overall

Grim..... and then grimmer

Felt very real and overpoweringly grim. The characters are different degrees of selfish complainers. Not fun but gripping. A bit too long perhaps- the abstract internal monologues (as opposed to the whining ones) get a bit disconnected. The supporting character everyone describes as a worthless loser is really the only one who seems happy.

  • Overall
  • Laura
  • Happy Valley, OR, United States
  • 04-15-11

Waste of a credit

This is the first book that I've ever had trouble finishing. The narrator did a good job with what he had to work with. The characters were the worst complainers and this was just depressing reading (or listening). I thought I'd always wanted to go and visit Alaska but I don't really want to anymore. If I were actually reading this book I would not have finished it.

2 of 4 people found this review helpful