“It was not Quoyle’s chin she hated, but his cringing hesitancy, as though he waited for her anger, expected her to make him suffer. She could not bear his hot back, the bulk of him in the bed. The part of Quoyle that was wonderful was, unfortunately, attached to the rest of him. A walrus panting on the near pillow. While she remained a curious question that attracted many mathematicians.
‘Sorry,’ he mumbled, his hairy leg grazing her thigh. In the darkness his pleading fingers crept up her arm. She shuddered, shook his hand away.
‘Don’t do that!’
She did not say ‘Lardass,’ but he heard it. There was nothing about him she could stand. She wished him in the pit. Could not help it any more than he could help his witless love.
Quoyle stiff-mouthed, feeling cables tighten around him as though drawn up by a ratchet. What had he expected when he married? Not his parents’ discount-store life, but something like Partridge’s backyard – friends, grill, smoke, affection and its unspoken language. But this didn’t happen. It was as though he were a tree and she a thorny branch grafted onto his side that flexed in every wind, flailing the wounded bark.
What he had was what he pretended.”

Quoyle is a big fat failure of a man, treated cruelly by his parents and brother, brought up to self-hatred, unable to hold down a decent job, given no respect by anyone, marrying a woman whom he loves passionately, despairingly – and being made miserable by her rampant and undisguised infidelity… He is a lumbering wreck of a man, the object of every reader’s distaste and disdain.

Suddenly, everything changes. His parents both die, he loses his job, and then his wife runs away and is killed in a car wreck. An aunt, previously a stranger, whistles into his life and somehow between them they uproot themselves and Quoyle’s two young daughters, to move North. They set off for the ancestral family home on the inhospitable Quoyle’s Point, on the inhospitable island of Newfoundland. As we watch Quoyle carving out this new life for himself and his family, there starts to be more to him than we thought.

This is an odd sort of book. Annie Proulx’s prose style is quirky, almost disjointed. Doesn’t really bother with pronouns. Reflects the people she writes about, I guess. And the place: not a place to bother with niceties, just get to the point.

Like those people, like that place, it seems at first to be a bit dull, uninspiring. But it draws you in. You start to enjoy it, and then you remember that you saw it somewhere on a feminist must-read booklist (this one). You start to wonder – why? It is a book about a man, doing manly things, and making friends with numerous other men who are even more manly. There are lots of fishing boats, and stories about men lost at sea. That sort of thing.

But then there is an “aah!” moment and, suddenly, you see. Right near the end. It isn’t anything to do with the almost jokey background rumble of child sex abuse, or the quiet story of Agnis, strong amazing Agnis, or any of that.

It is Quoyle himself. Wavey (a woman who he might or might not be falling in love with) points the way, when she tells eventually the truth about her own lost marriage. But it is Quoyle himself who makes this book a feminist must-read. Because he is not just an ordinary Joe, an “Everyman“, brought low by the circumstances of his abused childhood, his wretchedly painful marriage to a poisonous rat or his unfulfilling and insecure work. Nope. He is Everywoman.

And, in the end, he is OK.

Here is an Amazon link.
Got my copy in the library.

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