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A Quiet Gem of a Novel
on January 22, 2001
Eden Robinson has written a quietly engrossing novel about life on the coast of British Columbia, in the small Haisla town of Kitamaat. Lisa Marie (named after Elvis Presley's daughter) has a gift: she can see spirits, even if she does not understand them. Most troubling, she is visited by a little man with red hair who seems to appear at night in her bedroom just before disaster strikes. But this novel is not about Lisa and her visions of Sasquatchs and talking crows; MONKEY BEACH is about the tender bonds forged in life. Her beloved brother Jimmy has disappeared at sea, and the family can only wait for news. Lisa finds herself looking backwards for answers - in the deaths of her favorite uncle Mick and her grandmother, and in her own and her brother's lives. Through these extensive flashbacks, we begin to understand not only the significance of Jimmy's disappearance but also those he has left behind.
Although I found the ending vaguely disappointing, I enjoyed reading this skillful account of a Haisla family. You can count Eden Robinson in with the more famous names of Louise Erdrich, David Treuer, Susan Powers, and Leslie Marmon Silko as an honest portrayer of First Nation life. Her talents are rich and varied, so I expect to see many more books from her in the future. Readers of literary fiction won't be disappointed.