Review

Monkey Beach

by Eden Robinson



It is rare that a first novel can actually capture the essence of
an indigenous people, but Eden Robinson's novel about a Haisla
tribe from the Kitamaat region of the Pacific Northwest does just
that. MONKEY BEACH is an emotionally vivid map of a landscape not
well known to most of us. And it makes for some very compelling
reading.

Lisamarie (named after Elvis's daughter) spends a difficult time in
her life examining and remembering the specifics of her life, the
tomboyish antics of her youth, the danger that lies ahead in her
young adulthood. This is a time in which her brother --- who had
taken up a Haisla tradition and become a fisherman on the dangerous
Douglas Channel --- is presumed dead and is being searched for by
her parents and family friends. The traditions of the past and the
contrivances of the present clash as she considers the culture from
which she has come.

MONKEY BEACH is emotionally fierce, a narrative that pulls you
along like a swift river current, forcing you into the heart and
mind of each of the characters, asking you to consider the
different ways in which a family's ethnic culture can clash with
the demands and desires of the world at large, especially in the
crazy contemporary climate of the last 40 years. Robinson's voice
is pure magic: Lisamarie is a remarkably able narrator, allowing us
into her heart and mind with the most elegant language, the most
direct and specific emotional recountings.

MONKEY BEACH is exactly what a first novel should be and so much
more: Not only does it introduce us to an able-bodied new writer,
it also shows us that the novel, in and of itself, is a malleable
form, one that can be pushed into learning new tricks by avatars
who use their own personal experiences as a springboard to great
literature.

Reviewed by Jana Siciliano on January 22, 2011

Monkey Beach
by Eden Robinson

  • Publication Date: December 6, 2000
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • ISBN-10: 0618073272
  • ISBN-13: 9780618073276