Bleak but hopeful, mystical and magical – a belated coming-of-age story. Proulx had a hard road to climb with me to get Nfld right, as [b:The Colony of Unrequited Dreams|95230|The Colony of Unrequited Dreams A Novel|Wayne Johnston|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1320470124s/95230.jpg|235533] is my gold standard in that regard. But she succeeded magnificently. Treated the place as a character, as it needs to be.
This is an evocative exploration of one man’s inner landscape – as harsh and unknown to him at the start as the one to which he is forced to return. Themes of confronting a familial legacy of shame, abuse and rejection; of healing from the storm of the past and letting go of it, so as to love – one’s children, oneself, another. Also: the way place defines character; past defines present. Both can, must be endured -- but both can also be transcended.
Proulx’s prose is crisp and article-less; mimicking the Newfie vernacular well. Her similes are unerringly well-chosen - early morning pink clouds "like salmon fillets"; an early winter sea "like a grim tweed." So many more. The uniting motif and metaphor of the knots woven through scene layered on scene, tying together character and plot. Clever, not cutesy.
I loved it. Very similar in tone, character and theme to [b:Affliction|227751|Affliction|Russell Banks|http://d.gr-assets.com/books/1310092463s/227751.jpg|1829642] -- you can feel the cold damp wind blow through you. However, the poetry of Proulx's writing landed this unequivocally in the five-star category for me, as such:"These waters, thought Quoyle, haunted by lost ships, fishermen, explorers gurgled down into sea holes as black as a dog's throat. Bawling into salt broth. Vikings down the cracking winds, steering through fog by the polarized light of sun-stones. The Inuit in skin boats, breathing, breathing, rhythmic suck of frigid air, iced paddles dipping, spray freezing, sleek back rising, jostle, the boat torn, spiraling down. Millenial bergs from the glaciers, morbid, silent except for waves breaking on their flanks, the deceiving sound of shoreline where there was no shore. Foghorns, smothered gun reports along the coast. Ice welding land to sea. Frost smoke. Clouds mottled by reflections of water holes in the plains of ice. The glare of ice erasing dimension, distance, subjecting senses to mirage and illusion. A rare place."