From the get-go, Quoyle is a loser. Not only is he physically unattractive with a "great damp loaf of a body," but he is also not too bright. His father despises him, and his brother constantly taunts him. He drifts from job to job, never able to keep one for more than a few months. He gets married, only to have his wife sell their two daughters to a child pornographer and leave him.
THE SHIPPING NEWS describes Quoyle's psychological and spiritual rebirth. Left with two children to raise after he rescues them, and no job, he returns to Newfoundland, the land of his ancestors. A sometime newspaper reporter, he gets a job reporting on shipping news with a local publication, and becomes a minor celebrity. Gradually he is transformed into a loving father and a valued neighbor.
The novel is, by turns, heartbreaking and comic. The story of Quoyle's early life will bring tears to your eyes, but as the story spins on, you will find yourself wiping away tears of laughter instead of sorrow. Proulx brings the town of Newfoundland and its Killick-Claw residents to life with wit and humor.
THE SHIPPING NEWS won the National Book Award in 1993, and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1994. It is beautifully written --- Proulx prose comes very close to poetry at times --- and chronicles a compelling story of love and renewal.
Reviewed by Judith Handschuh on January 23, 2011