The Giller Prize-winning debut novel by Johanna Skibsrud.
Montreal poet Skibsrud's first novel, the dark horse winner of Canada's 2011 Giller Prize, is an intricate story about the crushing power of experience. As elderly, alcoholic Napoleon is being moved from his home in Fargo, N.D., to that of widowed family friend Henry Carey in Casablanca, Ontario, the unnamed narrator, one of Napoleon's two daughters, recalls time spent throughout her life in the Carey home and the strange story of her father, whose life fell apart after he returned from Vietnam. The story moves from the narrator's childhood; Napoleon's pivotal wartime service with Henry's son, Owen; and Napoleon's abandoning of his family, which crushed the narrator and her sister. Poetic ruminations are frequent but not oppressive, and provide uncommon perspectives on the characters: Napoleon's deathbed confessions "opened a seam through which the rest of the world now burst"; the narrator realizes, at her sick father's side, that her "own sadness seemed, at those times, to draw itself in-a complete and separate object-so that it seemed to have nothing to do with me anymore." Skibsrud's assured prose and graceful wordplay elevate this delicately structured story of redemption and forgiveness, and her storytelling is so refined and subtle that the punch at the end, while fully anticipated, still has a leveling power. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
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W. W. Norton & Company
September 30, 2009
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