Monkey Beach: A Novel
Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub
Robinson's mastery is confirmed in Monkey Beach, the first full-length work of fiction by a Haisla writer and an unforgettable story set in the wilds of the Pacific Northwest. This powerful novel reminds us that places, as much as people, have stories to tell.
Five hundred miles north of Vancouver is Kitamaat, an Indian reservation in the homeland of the Haisla people. Growing up a tough, wild tomboy, swimming, fighting, and fishing in a remote village where the land slips into the green ocean on the edge of the world, Lisamarie has always been different. Visited by ghosts and shapeshifters, tormented by premonitions, she can't escape the sense that something terrible is waiting for her. She recounts her enchanted yet scarred life as she journeys in her speedboat up the frigid waters of the Douglas Channel. She is searching for her brother, dead by drowning, and in her own way running as fast as she can toward danger. Circling her brother's tragic death are the remarkable characters that make up her family: Lisamarie's parents, struggling to join their Haisla heritage with Western ways; Uncle Mick, a Native rights activist and devoted Elvis fan; and the headstrong Ma-ma-oo (Haisla for "grandmother"), a guardian of tradition. Haunting, funny, and vividly poignant, Monkey Beach gives full scope to Robinson's startling ability to make bedfellows of comedy and the dark underside of life. Informed as much by its lush living wilderness as by the humanity of its colorful characters, Monkey Beach is a profoundly moving story about childhood and the pain of growing older--a multilayered tale of family grief and redemption.
he’d sworn to kill drifted away, held up by his floater jacket, a bright yellow dot against the white-tipped blackness of the waves. As Jimmy slips off the deck and over the railing, what surprises him is how fast the seiner sinks. Something so large, he thinks, should not be able to disappear in mere minutes, but in its last moments, it rode almost level with the water, rolling sluggishly in waves. It tilts up as a wave hits it to reveal the gaping hole where Jimmy rammed the seiner into a log.
Those who know the ocean know it doesn’t make friends. Exitio est avidum mare nautis—the greedy sea is there to be a doom for sailors. I never understood Jimmy’s implicit trust that the water would hold him safely. The first time we were at the Sam Lindsay Memorial Pool, Jimmy got in line for the swing, a thick, knotted rope that hung from the ceiling. The lifeguard asked Jimmy how old he was, and when he admitted he was six, the guard herded him back to the shallow end, where I’d been watching
even bother to wipe. When I got back to the porch, Mick was grinning at me, puffing away. “I’m not a chicken,” I said. “I know.” “I’m not a baby either.” “Didn’t say you were.” “I just don’t like the ghosts.” “Ghosts, huh?” “Don’t you believe in ghosts?” “Did you see them?” I shook my head. “I just heard them laughing.” Mick grunted. Aunt Edith had left for bed by the time we went back inside. Mom had cleared off the table and was scraping the leftovers into a bag. “She says she heard
sun, which had reached its peak and would set behind the mountains in about five hours. Swallows swooped and darted over our heads. Ma-ma-oo handed me a thermos cap filled with iced tea. I picked out the bits of lemon she had put in and sipped. Her iced tea was always bitter because she hated using sugar. I’d greedily gulped my juice long ago, so it was tea or nothing. We sat in the sunlight until we were rested, before heading back down the mountain. Blind Pass is relatively calm. It’s a
answered it. Jimmy was staying over at his friend’s place. I realized that Mom and Dad weren’t home. I went to every window in the house, looking out for the fire. House lights went on and people waited in their doorways to hear who the unlucky ones were. I didn’t bother phoning the fire hall because everyone else would be doing the same thing. There was nothing to do but wait. I went back and made myself a cup of hot chocolate, wondering who had been careless. Wondering if anyone was dead. I