This novel rightfully belongs to a select group that are worthy of being regarded as examples of epic American literature. The centuries-spanning story of a single family, working in various aspects of the timber industry, is Ms. Proulx’s best book since The Shipping News. Reading it is a little like taking a ride down a raging river in the wilderness, but the author’s abiding concern for the sanctity of nature is evident on every page. Don't let its length deter you, this is a literary journey well worth taking.
— Alden Graves
July 2016 Indie Next List
“This multigenerational saga follows the fortunes of the Sel and Duke families from early Colonial days to the present, spanning centuries and continents as they make their living not only from the bounty of the land but also from the ravaging and destruction of it. As always, Proulx is brilliant at creating a story that flows impeccably, and her nature writing is some of the most beautiful and evocative to be found in modern literature. This novel is an epic work, a fictional Silent Spring that will linger with readers long after completion.”
— Bill Cusumano (M), Square Books, Oxford, MS
Finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Best Novel
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
From the Pulitzer Prize---winning author of The Shipping News
and "Brokeback Mountain," comes the New York Times
bestselling epic about the demise of the world's forests: "Barkskins
is grand entertainment in the tradition of Dickens and Tolstoy...the crowning achievement of Annie Proulx's distinguished career, but also perhaps the greatest environmental novel ever written" (San Francisco Chronicle
In the late seventeenth century two young Frenchmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord for three years in exchange for land, they become wood-cutters--barkskins. Rene suffers extraordinary hardship, oppressed by the forest he is charged with clearing. He is forced to marry a native woman and their descendants live trapped between two cultures. But Duquet runs away, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. Annie Proulx tells the stories of the descendants of Sel and Duquet over three hundred years--their travels across North America, to Europe, China, and New Zealand--the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.
"A stunning, bracing, full-tilt ride through three hundred years of US and Canadian history...with the type of full-immersion plot that keeps you curled in your chair, reluctant to stop reading" (Elle
showcases Proulx's inimitable genius of creating characters who are so vivid that we follow them with fierce attention. "This is Proulx at the height of her powers as an irreplaceable American voice" (Entertainment Weekly
, Grade A), and Barkskins
"is an awesome monument of a book" (The Washington Post
)--"the masterpiece she was meant to write" (The Boston Globe
). As Anthony Doerr says, "This magnificent novel possesses the dark humor of The Shipping News
and the social awareness of 'Brokeback Mountain.'