Eden Robinson's first book, a collection of stories titled Traplines, earned high praise from critics: "Expertly rendered" (New York Times Book Review), and "Captured my attention and permeated my subconscious" (Toronto Globe and Mail). The book was named a New York Times Notable and won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize from the Royal Society of Literature. Robinson's mastery is confirmed in Monkey Beach, the first full-length work of fiction by a Haisla writer and an unforgettable story set in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. This powerful novel reminds us that places, as much as people, have stories to tell. Five hundred miles north of Vancouver is Kitamaat, an Indian reservation in the homeland of the Haisla people. Growing up a tough, wild tomboy, swimming, fighting, and fishing in a remote village where the land slips into the green ocean on the edge of the world, Lisamarie has always been different. Visited by ghosts and shapeshifters, tormented by premonitions, she can't escape the sense that something terrible is waiting for her. She recounts her enchanted yet scarred life as she journeys in her speedboat up the frigid waters of the Douglas Channel. She is searching for her brother, dead by drowning, and in her own way running as fast as she can toward danger. Circling her brother's tragic death are the remarkable characters that make up her family: Lisamarie's parents, struggling to join their Haisla heritage with Western ways; Uncle Mick, a Native rights activist and devoted Elvis fan; and the headstrong Ma-ma-oo (Haisla for "grandmother"), a guardian of tradition. Haunting, funny, and vividly poignant, Monkey Beach gives full scope to Robinson's startling ability to make bedfellows of comedy and the dark underside of life. Informed as much by its lush living wilderness as by the humanity of its colorful characters, Monkey Beach is a profoundly moving story about childhood and the pain of growing o

Mariner Books 384 pages

  • Reviews

Jennifer D.

over 5 years ago

2.5-stars, if we could.

there was much about this novel that was appealing, particularly the aspects of native culture, and the settings. lisa's relationship with ma-ma-oo was my favourite piece of the book, and the knowledge lisa gained from her grandmother was so interesting to me. robinson deals with some very difficult themes within native culture. given the current unacceptable and heartbreaking situation in canada concerning the murdered and missing indigenous women, this is a very timely read.

unfortunately, there's a 'but' coming... but i just didn't feel like this book pulled everything it was trying to do together well enough. some of the characters were very thinly developed and some situations seemed without purpose. by the end of the book, i just felt disappointed, as though the book didn't quite reach the potential.

i do think this is an important book for the canadian canon, and there were definitely parts i thought were quite strong. i just didn't feel the overall quality of the writing was mind-blowing, and it was inconsistent. i am sorry! i really wanted to love the book.

(as an aside -- i am wondering how my reading impacted my feelings of the novel? i read this as part of a group read, and stuck to the reading schedule, which is hard for me to do. normally i would read a book of this length in a couple of days. in keeping to the group read, i read it over 3 weeks. i do feel my experience with the book may have been stronger if i had not drawn it out so long, with long pauses between reading session.)