Quoyle is the awkward main character of Annie Proulx’s novel The Shipping News. A pitiful, less than qualified newspaper hopeful, he stumbles through life a needy mess with few people who care about or even notice him. After his cheating wife is killed in a car accident, Quoyle is left with his two beloved daughters and a need for a new life. When his aunt persuades him to move to the old family homestead in Newfoundland, Quoyle reluctantly agrees.
As the family settles in, Quoyle joins a host of eccentric characters whose friendships create the possibility of a life previously out of reach for him. As the new shipping columnist at the local newspaper, Quoyle is in a prime place to soak up Newfoundland’s culture and quirks with murderous ship owners, icy car crashes, and a boss who fishes more than he comes into the office. Gradually, Quoyle begins to realize his own place among the coworkers and neighbors who, in true small town fashion, become friends.
Along the way, in this land marked by the memory of his ancestors, Quoyle must stare the demons of his past in his face and decide whether he will be conquered by the failures of the past. Love and fear, chance and fate are brought into question as Quoyle learns what it means to do more than simply survive.
Proulx won a Pulitzer for her unique, striking prose in this novel, full of stark sentences that convey the raw realism of each fascinating figure. The novel has a skillful balance of longing and humor that is thankfully void of sap. The characters are each unique and pleasantly peculiar without veering into caricatures of friendly island folk. The Shipping News is a novel that will have you aching for more of the author’s finely crafted writing.
Sadly the only available audio book version is abridged. Narrator Robert Joy’s recitation of the novel is somewhat thick and bland and fails to do justice to the author’s distinct writing style so listen closely or opt for the printed version.