Monkey BeachBook - 2000
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.
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Lisa is living in a coastal community in BC called Kitamaat, which has a high native population. It is a coming of age story and starts with the reader learning of the disappearance and suspected death of the main character's brother Jimmy. The main character Lisa then begins going through a series of flashbacks detailing her teen years and life with her family up until this point. Strewn throughout the novel are more 'present' settings where Lisa moves the story forward by finding out more information about her brother. Eventually the flash backs and the present merge to come to the ending, which is terrible. We don't really find out if Jimmy lives or dies, although we do find out that he kills a family friend for raping his niece, who is Jimmy's girlfriend. Lisa is looking for Jimmy on Monkey Beach, the novels name sake and maybe gets eaten by a Sasquatch? Once again the ending of this novel is terrible.
Lisa comes of age in Kitamaat, B.C., where her Haida community includes uncles involved in First Nations warrior movements, industrious grandmothers with one foot in the grave and the other in various spirit worlds, and the long-armed specter of residential schools.
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