I was originally a bit disappointed by Annie Proulx The Shipping News, and while I have not been converted into a fan, I do have a greater appreciation of the story after discussing its nuances with my family’s book club. Quoyle has thought of himself as a failure all his life. When his selfish, unfaithful wife Petal dies, Quoyle is left with two daughters who have been neglected by their mother and don’t understand death. Quoyle’s aunt takes the task of keeping Quoyle’s little family from going under. They return to the home of their ancestors, Newfoundland, where Quolye gets a job at the local paper writing the shipping news, basically keeping track of the boats that come and go.
The people here are odd, to say the least. But they are living their lives the best they can. The weather is unpredictable, and often deadly, jobs are scarce, money is tight. You have to rely on neighbors to get you through. This novel isn’t fast paced, I was often frustrated with the lack of plot movement. But I suppose this is book of characters more than plot. You see Quoyle’s transformation, and they way he truly loves his daughters. It’s the moments when he is surrounded by his family and evolving into a stronger man that this book shines. It wasn’t my type of novel, but I can respect it for the depth of its characters and the power of its setting.