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Monkey Beach


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About the Author

EDEN ROBINSON is the author of a collection of novellas called Traplines, which won the Winifred Holtby Prize in the UK. Her first novel, Monkey Beach, won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize and was a finalist for the Giller Prize and the Governor General's Award for Fiction. It was followed by Blood Sports, and then Son of a Trickster, the first instalment of her trilogy, which was a finalist for the Scotiabank Giller Prize and Canada Reads. Trickster Drift, the second book in the trilogy, won the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize. In 2017, Eden was awarded the Writers' Trust Fellowship. She lives in Kitimat, BC.


Adult/High School-Lisamarie Hill is a Haisla, living on her people's Kitamaat reservation, north of Vancouver, BC. Now 21, she is motoring alone up the Douglas Channel to search for her younger brother, Jimmy, feared lost during his first run as a deckhand on a fishing boat. The narrative flashes back to her childhood. At once a typical young girl and one chosen to carry on the legacy of her forebears, Lisa was an ungovernable spirit who was always in trouble. She felt pulled apart by the desire for acceptance by her peers, and the need to spend her time with her grandmother. Ma-ma-oo taught her of nature's wonders, and of the "old time" when "-Animals and humans could switch shapes, simply by putting on each other's skins-." Lisa heard voices, saw things others didn't, and was visited on moonlit nights by a tiny red-haired figure who perched on her jewelry box. At 16, crushed by her grandmother's illness and eventual suicide, Lisa left school and went to Vancouver and spent her inheritance on drink and drugs. Finally, shocked by news of the suicide of a former boyfriend, she returned to Kitamaat to finish high school. Now, traveling up the channel, Lisa stops at Monkey Beach, where she and Jimmy reestablished their relationship after her return home. There she encounters her brother and grandmother in the watery spirit world, but Lisa is sent back, left alone on the beach. Teens will be fascinated by this artfully told tale. It is sad and funny, and at times shocking, but always real in its portrayal of a young girl growing into womanhood.-Molly Connally, Kings Park Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.

Robinson, who is of Haisla and Heiltsuk descent, portrays contemporary Haisla culture from the perspective of Lisa, a young Haisla woman coming of age in Kitamaat, BC. Just as she is recovering from a debilitating depression triggered by a series of deaths in her family, Lisa learns that her brother has disappeared. Before each death, she was visited by a ghostDvisitations that increased when she approached adolescenceDand this contact with the spirit world is a metaphorical bridge from old Haisla ways to her contemporary life. Confronted with so much loss, she must struggle to continue living. Yet as she accepts that her brother, too, has died, she comes to recognize that there is still a purpose to her own life. Robinson, who won the Winifred Holtby Prize for her first publication, the story collection Traplines, wanders somewhat in this first novel, but it is full of lore, landscape, familial closeness, and deeply expressed anguish. Highly recommended for all libraries.DRebecca Stuhr, Grinnell Coll. Libs., IA Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

Jimmy Hill's fishing boat is lost at sea, and while his older sister, Lisa, waits for word, her thoughts drift to their childhood in Kitamaat, a small Haisla Canadian Indian community off the coast of British Columbia. Skipping back and forth between the 20-year-old Lisa's anxious vigil and the story of her upbringing, this lyrical first novel by half-Haisla short story writer Robinson (Traplines) sings with honesty. As a child, Lisa is a feisty kid, a fighter. Her heroes are her Uncle Mick, a Native rights activist who teaches her to sing "Fuck the Oppressors," and her grandmother Ma-ma-oo, who instructs her in Haisla ways. Popular culture and tradition go hand in hand in Kitamaat, where a burnt offering to the dead is likely to be a box of Twinkies, and Lisa's sensible, hard-working parents try to give their children the best of both worlds. Jimmy, a straight arrow, shows early promise as a swimmer and trains for the Olympics. Lisa, meanwhile, is thrown off course by the tragic death of Uncle Mick and joins a gang of tough boys in junior high. A few years later, she runs away to Vancouver and a life of drugs and alcohol. Startled at last out of her downward spiral by the spirits that have visited her since she was a little girl, she comes home just in time to watch as her brother's life falls apart and he inexplicably takes a job as a deckhand. Eventually, she sets out alone to meet her parents near the spot where Jimmy's boat was last seen. Lisa is an unsentimental, ferocious, funny and utterly believable protagonist; Robinson's narrative is engrossing but fiercely uncompromising, avoiding easy resolution. Fans of writers like Lois Anne Yamanaka and Sherman Alexie, who blurbs the book, will appreciate this gritty, touching story. Author tour. (Dec. 6) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.

"Robinson's tribute to the Pacific Northwest and Haisla culture, embodied in her stout-hearted heroine and all her other vital and complex characters, does what good literature does best: it moves meaningfully from the particular to the universal and back again. And Robinson performs this feat with genuine insight, wry humor and transcendent lyricism."
-Chicago Tribune

"It is, in the best sense, a thriller, a spiritual mystery. The underlying plot centers on what exactly has happened to Jimmy (and why), a question that is only answered in the book's breathtaking final pages."
-The Washington Post

"Tough, tender and fierce."
-Sherman Alexie

"Eden Robinson is one of those rare artists who comes to writing with a skill and maturity that has taken the rest of us decades to achieve."
-Thomas King

"A graceful and impressive book."
-Times Literary Supplement

"Far more than a novel of psychological transformation... It is, in the best sense, a thriller, a spiritual mystery... breathtaking... Robinson rewards our faith that after all these years writers can still, as Pound said, 'make it new.' In this year's lineup of lookalike literary prospects she could be the Willie Mays we've been hoping for."
-The Washington Post

"Glorious Northern Gothic... . A compelling story...Robinson has an artist's eye, and delicately evokes the astonishing natural beauty of the Kitamaat region...behind Lisa's neutral voice is an authorial presence, weaving Haisla and Heiltsuk lore into the fabric of the novel gracefully, but with the quiet determination of an archivist cataloguing a disappearing way of life... a deeply satisfying conclusion."
-The Globe and Mail, January 22, 2000

"Monkey Beach is a moody, powerful novel full of memorable characters. Reading it was like entering a pool of emerald water to discover a haunted world shivering with loss and love, regret and sorrow, where the spirit world is as real as the human. I was sucked into it with the very first sentence and when I left, it was with a feeling of immense reluctance."
-Anita Rau Badami

"Remarkable...Reads like a friend's conversation over coffee - warm, genuine...The simple, straight-to-the-heart prose gives each element, each event in the story, the same weight and perception of reality...Monkey Beach is both unusual and memorable...The book is a work of a deft talent, all the more remarkable that it is a first work."
-Denver Post

"Although death hangs like a Pacific mist over these pages, Robinson, herself a Haisla, fills this edifying book with the stuff of the living, from the tiniest details of Haisla life to the mightiest universals of tradition, desire and family love."
-LA Times Book Review

"Monkey Beach...is written with poise, intelligence and playfulness... Intricately patterned... there is much to admire in this tale of grief and survival...In Lisamarie Hill, Robinson has created a memorable character, a young woman who finds a way to survive even as everything around her decays."
-National Post, January 22, 2000

"...we bear witness as she spreads her wings - not one note rings false. All the characters...are stubbornly real, mixtures of good and evil. This is Robinson at her best...this is a world worth every ounce of remembrance."
-Toronto Star, Jan. 23, 2000

"A whirling magical style." "Native writer's debut novel catalogues the touch, sound and taste of Haisla life."
-The Hamilton Spectator, January 29, 2000

"A first novel that bristles with energy - and a spunky heroine.... A haunting coming-of-age story [whose] the tragic elements are leavened with wonderful moments of humour...The characters in the book emerge brilliantly."

"[Robinson's] command of language and ability to create three-dimensional, believable characters result in a hypnotic, heady sensory experience -. The beauty of the book is in the details -Robinson combines mortal and spiritual worlds, the past and the present, seamlessly fusing them into a cogent, non-linear narrative -. Riveting."
-NOW (four-star review)

"Robinson...cuts through the superficial and goes straight to the heart."
-eye Weekly

"Robinson's specialty is presenting the day-to-day: no bells, no whistles, no filtered lenses...but a lot of close-ups... The humour is pure, but the grit and blood is mixed with meditations on still waters, ancestral voices, ghostly footsteps and beating hearts...[Monkey Beach is] an important work of understanding."
-Edmonton Journal

"Traplines was acclaimed for its startling blend of reality, brutality and humour - Monkey Beach carries [Robinson's] signature. But it does more. The dark humour is still pure, but the grit and blood is now mixed with meditations on still waters, ancestral voices, ghostly footsteps and beating hearts."
-The Vancouver Sun

"Eden Robinson taps her own Haisla-Heiltsuk heritage to hurl [our Native] stereotypes into the West Coast mist and cigarette fumes that drift through her story. Her heroine, Lisamarie, is fierce and funny and screwed up, [and] her story, told through her memories of a past both rich and troubled, reveals a woman as strong and intricate as a carved mask."

"Monkey Beach is an important novel. It exposes the redemptive, vital lives of a once dying culture with Robinson's insider compassion and trickster wit-. Robinson has energy; she resists the slickster sophistication that dries out so much of today's fiction; her humour is not urbane and nasty but shifty and wise."
-Quill & Quire

"Robinson's characters are refreshingly real, simply yet elegantly wrought"
-Elm Street

"Monkey Beach is a gift."

"Monkey Beach...is pervaded by a powerful sense of menace, and the haunting spirituality that lurks in the beautiful landscape of Canada's Pacific coast."

"Fans of Robinson's bleak, compelling shorts won't be disappointed."

"Beautifully written and haunting, this is an impressive debut."

"Her debut novel is an absorbing, if at times, disturbing, imaginative work."
-Daily Telegraph

"In her debut novel, Monkey Beach, Eden Robinson, a young First Nations woman who grew up in Haisla territory near Kitimat BC, does not wring her hands or cast blame. This is a candid and contemporary tale of family love and societal screw-ups and she simply acknowledges the reality of an unfolding universe."
-Kitchener-Waterloo Record

"Well worth reading...a complicated fabric of disaster and redemption."

"A gripping read... Smart, lyrical, simple prose, dramatic and affecting... Her truths, like her heroine, are young, raw, stark...Nature is evoked so vividly that chronology seems almost artifice. You see the seasons through Lisa's eyes, as if they are calendars and clocks, until place becomes time, and you understand the world that was lost."
-San Diego Union Tribune

"A wonderful read...Lyrical but straightforward, enchanting... ultimately, redemptive."
-Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel

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