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Monkey Beach

Monkey Beach by Eden Robinson
Paperback
Jan 09, 2001 | 384 Pages
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  • Paperback $18.00

    Jan 09, 2001 | 384 Pages

  • Ebook $13.99

    Oct 05, 2011 | 384 Pages

Product Details

Praise

“Robinson’s tribute to the Pacific Northwest and Haisla culture, embodied in her stout-hearted heroine and all her other vital and complex characters, does what good literature does best: it moves meaningfully from the particular to the universal and back again. And Robinson performs this feat with genuine insight, wry humor and transcendent lyricism.”
Chicago Tribune

“It is, in the best sense, a thriller, a spiritual mystery. The underlying plot centers on what exactly has happened to Jimmy (and why), a question that is only answered in the book’s breathtaking final pages.”
The Washington Post

“Tough, tender and fierce.”
—Sherman Alexie

“Unflinching, moving and shockingly, bloodily funny. Eden Robinson offers a raw, muscular, urgent new voice: she writes from the heart.”
—A. L. Kennedy on Traplines

“Eden Robinson is one of those rare artists who comes to writing with a skill and maturity that has taken the rest of us decades to achieve.”
—Thomas King

"A graceful and impressive book."
Times Literary Supplement

"Far more than a novel of psychological transformation… It is, in the best sense, a thriller, a spiritual mystery… breathtaking… Robinson rewards our faith that after all these years writers can still, as Pound said, ‘make it new.’ In this year’s lineup of lookalike literary prospects she could be the Willie Mays we’ve been hoping for."
The Washington Post

"Glorious Northern Gothic… . A compelling story…Robinson has an artist’s eye, and delicately evokes the astonishing natural beauty of the Kitamaat region…behind Lisa’s neutral voice is an authorial presence, weaving Haisla and Heiltsuk lore into the fabric of the novel gracefully, but with the quiet determination of an archivist cataloguing a disappearing way of life… a deeply satisfying conclusion."
The Globe and Mail, January 22, 2000

"Monkey Beach is a moody, powerful novel full of memorable characters. Reading it was like entering a pool of emerald water to discover a haunted world shivering with loss and love, regret and sorrow, where the spirit world is as real as the human. I was sucked into it with the very first sentence and when I left, it was with a feeling of immense reluctance."
—Anita Rau Badami

"Remarkable…Reads like a friend’s conversation over coffee — warm, genuine…The simple, straight-to-the-heart prose gives each element, each event in the story, the same weight and perception of reality…Monkey Beach is both unusual and memorable…The book is a work of a deft talent, all the more remarkable that it is a first work."
Denver Post

"Although death hangs like a Pacific mist over these pages, Robinson, herself a Haisla, fills this edifying book with the stuff of the living, from the tiniest details of Haisla life to the mightiest universals of tradition, desire and family love."
LA Times Book Review

"Monkey Beach…is written with poise, intelligence and playfulness… Intricately patterned… there is much to admire in this tale of grief and survival…In Lisamarie Hill, Robinson has created a memorable character, a young woman who finds a way to survive even as everything around her decays."
National Post, January 22, 2000

"…we bear witness as she spreads her wings — not one note rings false. All the characters…are stubbornly real, mixtures of good and evil. This is Robinson at her best…this is a world worth every ounce of remembrance."
Toronto Star, Jan. 23, 2000

"A whirling magical style." "Native writer’s debut novel catalogues the touch, sound and taste of Haisla life."
The Hamilton Spectator, January 29, 2000

"A first novel that bristles with energy — and a spunky heroine…. A haunting coming-of-age story [whose] the tragic elements are leavened with wonderful moments of humour…The characters in the book emerge brilliantly."
Maclean’s

"[Robinson’s] command of language and ability to create three-dimensional, believable characters result in a hypnotic, heady sensory experience —. The beauty of the book is in the details —Robinson combines mortal and spiritual worlds, the past and the present, seamlessly fusing them into a cogent, non-linear narrative —. Riveting."
—NOW (four-star review)

"Robinson…cuts through the superficial and goes straight to the heart."
eye Weekly

"Robinson’s specialty is presenting the day-to-day: no bells, no whistles, no filtered lenses…but a lot of close-ups… The humour is pure, but the grit and blood is mixed with meditations on still waters, ancestral voices, ghostly footsteps and beating hearts…[Monkey Beach is] an important work of understanding."
Edmonton Journal

"Traplines was acclaimed for its startling blend of reality, brutality and humour — Monkey Beach carries [Robinson’s] signature. But it does more. The dark humour is still pure, but the grit and blood is now mixed with meditations on still waters, ancestral voices, ghostly footsteps and beating hearts."
The Vancouver Sun

"Eden Robinson taps her own Haisla-Heiltsuk heritage to hurl [our Native] stereotypes into the West Coast mist and cigarette fumes that drift through her story. Her heroine, Lisamarie, is fierce and funny and screwed up, [and] her story, told through her memories of a past both rich and troubled, reveals a woman as strong and intricate as a carved mask."
Chatelaine

"Monkey Beach is an important novel. It exposes the redemptive, vital lives of a once dying culture with Robinson’s insider compassion and trickster wit—. Robinson has energy; she resists the slickster sophistication that dries out so much of today’s fiction; her humour is not urbane and nasty but shifty and wise."
Quill & Quire

"Robinson’s characters are refreshingly real, simply yet elegantly wrought"
Elm Street

"Monkey Beach is a gift."
Homemaker’s

"Monkey Beach…is pervaded by a powerful sense of menace, and the haunting spirituality that lurks in the beautiful landscape of Canada’s Pacific coast."
Independent

"Fans of Robinson’s bleak, compelling shorts won’t be disappointed."
Esquire

"Beautifully written and haunting, this is an impressive debut."
Times

"Her debut novel is an absorbing, if at times, disturbing, imaginative work."
Daily Telegraph

"In her debut novel, Monkey Beach, Eden Robinson, a young First Nations woman who grew up in Haisla territory near Kitimat BC, does not wring her hands or cast blame. This is a candid and contemporary tale of family love and societal screw-ups and she simply acknowledges the reality of an unfolding universe."
Kitchener-Waterloo Record

"Well worth reading…a complicated fabric of disaster and redemption."
Newsday

"A gripping read… Smart, lyrical, simple prose, dramatic and affecting… Her truths, like her heroine, are young, raw, stark…Nature is evoked so vividly that chronology seems almost artifice. You see the seasons through Lisa’s eyes, as if they are calendars and clocks, until place becomes time, and you understand the world that was lost."
San Diego Union Tribune

"A wonderful read…Lyrical but straightforward, enchanting… ultimately, redemptive."
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

Awards

BC Book Prize’s Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize WINNER 2001

Governor General’s Literary Awards – Fiction SHORTLIST 2000

Scotiabank Giller Prize SHORTLIST 2000

Sunburst Award SHORTLIST 2001

Author Q&A

1) Can you tell us how you became a writer?
I was an avid reader long before I considered becoming a writer. When I was young, I wanted to be an astronaut, so I was focused on the sciences and math until NASA started using shuttles. I wanted to go up in a rocket because they seemed more romantic than shuttles, and so I gave up on the idea of being an astronaut. I spent my grade ten year debating my future career — pastry chef, stewardess, biologist — before some of my English teachers encouraged me to explore writing.

2) What inspired you to write this particular book? Is there a story about the writing of this novel that begs to be told?
Monkey Beach was originally a short story. I brought it into a workshop, and they pointed out that it was a string of interesting anecdotes about drowning, but not an actual short story. It didn’t even have a main character at that point. My mother had told me stories about fishing accidents when I was a child, and I’d been trying to recapture that feeling of dread and wonder you get when you’re working on the ocean. I expanded the story until it became a novella, at which point my agent said it was going to be a novel. I didn’t believe her until I hit page 200 and there still wasn’t an end in sight.

3) What is that you’re exploring in this book?
The redemptive power of love. All the characters are dealing with love or the lack of it.

4) Who is your favourite character in this book, and why?
I have a soft spot for Uncle Mick. All the sections with him in it came easy because he’s such an energetic, nutty character.

5) Are there any tips you would give a book club to better navigate their discussion of your book?
At home, we get together after dinner and have coffee. One person starts telling stories, and then people chime in, add details, debate details, tell related stories and then wind back to the person who was telling the first story. Coffee went as long as the story needed to be told. I wanted Monkey Beach to have that kind of structure: so it’s more or less linear, with different characters chiming in.

6) Do you have a favourite story to tell about being interviewed about your book?
One interviewer kept calling me by my main character’s name, Lisa. She asked me how it felt when my brother was reported missing, and I burst out laughing. She looked shocked and I had to explain that I wasn’t Lisa, and my own brother wasn’t missing. In fact, he was waiting for me at a nearby café where we were going to get together and plan my website. She kept calling me Lisa right to the end, and then afterwards, gave me the business card of a grief councilor.

7) What question are you never asked in interviews but wish you were?
Did you have a favourite pet? Yes, my canary Elvis, who didn’t sing. When I let her out of her cage to fly around my apartment, she would land on my computer when she got tired and watch me write. She died the day Monkey Beach was finished, and I was elated and devastated at the same time. It was kind of embarrassing to miss something so small so much, but she was there through all the tough parts of the book, watching over me.

8) Has a review or profile ever changed your perspective on your work?
One reviewer detailed — page by page — how many times people in my book smoked, and then gave Monkey Beach a bad review because he thought my main character was an unhealthy influence on today’s native youth. Before that, I’d agonized over every review, good or bad. Now I can take them with a grain of salt and extract the things that are useful to me and ignore the things that aren’t.

9) Which authors have been most influential to your own writing?
I blame Stephen King for my love of horror, but it was probably Edgar Allen Poe who kicked that off. My grade four teacher had two passions: The Sound of Music and Poe. He’d dance through the class singing Edelweiss, and then we’d read “The Pit and the Pendulum” or “The Telltale Heart.” Poe was born on the same day as me, January 19, along with Dolly Parton. I’m sure that influences my writing in some way.

10) If you weren’t writing, what would you want to be doing for a living? What are some of your other passions in life?
If I wasn’t writing, I’d probably own a stationary store. I love being around paper and pens and organizing gadgets. When I was living in Vancouver, a Staples store opened next door to my apartment building and I knew it was getting bad when the clerks started greeting me by name. I knew it was really bad when I started maxing out my credit cards.

11) If you could have written one book in history, what book would that be?
Pride and Prejudice. It’s my comfort book. Whenever things go bad, I turn to Austen. I had to stop reading her for a while when I was writing Monkey Beach because one of my characters was turning into Darcy.

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