In 1693, two indentured French immigrants become woodcutters, or "barkskins," in Canada's lush, coastal wilderness. For the next 300 years, their descendants control or rely upon the burgeoning timber industry, as trees are increasingly seen as an infinite resource, to be possessed and plundered. One family ambitiously develops a logging company. The other, marrying into an Indian tribe, grapples with the loss of traditions, power, and culture. Propelled by greed, opportunism, innovation, and imagination, and enduring difficult, perilous lives, the characters of this brilliantly imagined, fastidiously researched novel move toward a modern-day epiphany; a hopeful ecological reversal of the "taming" of the forest. -Erica— From Summer Booknotes 2016
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
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
Finalist for the Kirkus Prize for Best Novel
A New York Times Notable Book
A Washington Post Best Book of the Year
From Annie Proulx--the Pulitzer Prize-- and National Book Award--winning author of The Shipping News and "Brokeback Mountain," comes her masterwork: an epic, dazzling, violent, magnificently dramatic novel about the taking down of the world's forests.
In the late seventeenth century two penniless young Frenchmen, Rene Sel and Charles Duquet, arrive in New France. Bound to a feudal lord, a "seigneur," 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 Mi'kmaw woman and their descendants live trapped between two inimical cultures. But Duquet, crafty and ruthless, runs away from the seigneur, becomes a fur trader, then sets up a timber business. 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, under stunningly brutal conditions--the revenge of rivals, accidents, pestilence, Indian attacks, and cultural annihilation. Over and over again, they seize what they can of a presumed infinite resource, leaving the modern-day characters face to face with possible ecological collapse.
Proulx's inimitable genius is her creation of characters who are so vivid--in their greed, lust, vengefulness, or their simple compassion and hope--that we follow them with fierce attention. Annie Proulx is one of the most formidable and compelling American writers, and Barkskins is her greatest novel, a magnificent marriage of history and imagination.