- 2005 Giller Nominee. See the full 2005 Giller Prize Shortlist.
Alligator Hardcover – Sep 13 2005
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On the opening page of this mesmerizing first novel by the author of Open, a man puts his head into the mouth of an alligator, with grisly results. Part of an industrial training video, the incident is shocking yet strangely static, stripped bare of emotion. The girl watching the video has seen it many times before and her listless fascination with its random inevitability sets the tone for an unsettling exploration of the reptilian side of human nature. Like the man in the video, Lisa Moore's characters knowingly, and even willfully, place themselves in danger. Seventeen-year-old Colleen reels recklessly from vigilante-style eco-terrorism to drunken one-night stands with strangers in downtown St. John's. Her aunt Madeleine (maker of the alligator video) ignores the signs of serious illness in order to finish one last film. Madeleine's leading actor, Isobel, perversely gives herself up to the influence of Valentin, a rapacious Russian drug dealer whose cold-blooded lust for cash ignites a violent series of events. Only Frank, the young hot-dog vendor who lives in the bed-sit below the Russian, shies away from danger, though he is dragged into it nonetheless: "He waited in case something else was coming. He waited for something else. He waited for things not to be the way they were. But everything was the way it was."
Cutting rapidly from one point of view to another, roaming freely between past and present in a single scene, and lingering sensuously over miniscule physical details (like the jar of faded forget-me-nots on Frank's windowsill), Lisa Moore is a stylist in a class with Virginia Woolf and Jeannette Winterson. While her dialogue can seem unnaturally confessional and the number of characters makes it difficult to identify with anyone for long, Alligator is a triumph. No one else in mainstream Canadian fiction writes quite like Lisa Moore. --Lisa Alward
From Publishers Weekly
The powerful American debut of Canadian bestseller Moore does for Newfoundland what Empire Falls did for dying smalltown Maine and The Sportswriter did for suburban New Jersey. Seventeen-year-old Colleen Clark and her mother, Beverly, can't overcome their grief over the sudden death of David, Beverly's husband and Colleen's stepfather. While Beverly copes by dieting and retreating into herself, Colleen downloads videos of beheadings off the Internet and tries her hand at eco-terrorism ("I wanted to change things," she says about dumping sugar into a bulldozer's gas tank) before running away to Louisiana"where alligators troll the bayou. Madeleine, Beverly's older sister, scrambles to finish her cinematic opus before her heart"heavy with longing for her youth and gradually weakening due to an unnamed medical condition"gives out. Frank, a 19-year-old still reeling from his mother's death from cancer, obsesses over Colleen and finds himself intertwined with Valentin, a Russian gangster with his own tormented past. Powerfully drawn secondary characters"an actress in Madeleine's film, Valentin's lover"add depth to this generous novel. (Sept. 21)
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Top Customer Reviews
I gave it three stars because there are some really great parts that I did enjoy. If I think of the book as merely fragments of character then I like it a bit more than if I imagine it as a cohesive book. I love books that cast wide nets with lots of characters and story lines, but I recognize that it's a hard thing to reign in and keep control of and I think it got away from Moore here a bit too often.
All in all, I found my mind wandering away from the book too many times while I was reading it, just unable to be captured by what was happening on the page. I think I would give Moore another shot though. Maybe try one of her short story books as it seems she would be good at writing short stories.
I read, and read, and read about the characters but nothing was happening. It seems like a very long set up to a story, with nothing actually taking place. The characters that Moore has created aren't even very interesting, like stale bread. Maybe things begin to happen halfway through Alligator, but Moore couldn't hold my interest long enough for me to get to that point.
There's so much praise for this book, but I honestly don't see it. It's long and drawn out. I started thinking "why do I care about these people?", "how is this person relevant to the plot?", "where's the plot?" - snore.
If you like reading about the details of characters, without the characters actually doing anything interesting, this is the book for you. I, on the otherhand, am completely disappointed. And bored.
In a sense, Alligator is much more developed than Moore's later title, February, but February is a comprehensible story of a disaster, and its consequences for individual lives and the society. Alligator is much darker than February. There is no disaster, the tragedy is intrinsic to the characters of the people. In the end one person is dead, one came home, one is in jail for life, and one escaped an attempt on his life, even though we don't quite know how, or what it took him to fully recover.
Towards the end the story breaks down and the books seems strangely unfinished. There is, of course, no need to tell a whole story. It is possible to enter somewhere in the middle and exit wherever the writer wants, but the beginning of this book did not point to such type of a narration.
If you want to read good prose, you should not miss this book, but keep in mind that this is a very dark story. Is it, perhaps, a new "The Way we Live Now" for the 21st century?
Most recent customer reviews
Wanting to support "local" authors I saw that this book was written by an author from St John's, Newfoundland and just had to get it for my friend who lives in Newfoundland. Read morePublished on Jan. 6 2010 by Sarah Butland
Every aspiring writer should read this book to learn how to create fascinating, believable characters. Splendid, unique voice. Full of perception. Highly recommended.Published on April 19 2009 by Lauren B. Davis
I decided to read this book because it was nominated for the Giller Prize a few years back. After reading the book though, I was left with a bland feeling. Read morePublished on Oct. 4 2006 by NorthVan Dave
I could visualize everything Moore wrote. Every character had fundamental choices which shaped their lives. Read morePublished on Jan. 12 2006 by Jeannette
this is an amazing read...lisa moore molds characters into your mind, and makes you "feel" something...I couldn't put this book down. Read morePublished on Nov. 7 2005