Proulx, Annie. The Shipping News. New York: Scribner, 1993.
Quoyle's entire life is a series of bad things happening. He falls in love with a tramp. His parents kill themselves. He is fired and rehired from his job seasonally. He moves to Newfoundland with his children and aunt. Only in this desolate place does life begin changing for Quoyle. This is a profound story of description and characterization.
I do not like the water, nor do I like to read "water books." However, Annie Proulx captivated me with this novel. I am so impressed with the knowledge she shares of the maritime experience as well as the characterization in this book. By Chapter 3, I wondered what else could happen to this character Quoyle. I kept reading to find out and was not disappointed. The story is believable, tragic, hopeful and significant.
One aspect I enjoyed reading was the life headlines. As events happened to Quoyle, Proulx provides the headline that accompanies the event: i.e., "Stupid Man Does Wrong Thing Once More" (Proulx 89) or "Newspaper Reporter Seems Magnet for Dead Men" (Proulx 210). I thought this tie in to the newspaper world was very clever.
After I read the book, I watched the movie (starring Kevin Spacey? as Quoyle!). As I watched, I thought about how the movie brought events in (and omitted them as well), but I realized that if I hadn't read the book first, I don't think I would have known what the movie was doing. Also, the movie looses the flavorful descriptions that Proulx writes. When describing cousin Nolan, Proulx writes, "The old man held it [picture] in his trembling claw" (Proulx 296).
The very last sentence of the book gives hope to all, "and it may be that love sometimes occurs without pain or misery" (Proulx 337). I say, "Good luck Quoyle!"