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.— From Erica
Deep in narrative traditions all over the world there are stories of the forest, its place in people's myriad ways and doings, and its place that seems to be beyond those ways, unfathomable, mysterious. Such stories coming from the Mediterranean and then west through Europe - places where forests now are not so evident - are part of the cultural birthmatter of the West. (These stories are elsewhere in the world, too, most certainly.) In her astounding novel, Barkskins, Annie Proulx has written an epic, incandescent, page-turning story of people from two linked families over three hundred years' time. The forest, from its very specific 'New France' setting in 1693 to the decimation of forests all over the world by book's end, is the families' defining and fate-determining bond. Humanly lived life, striving, ambition, intention, mercy, ruthlessness, quests for redemption, and death are to be found on most every page. All the while, there is also an awareness, an intelligence at work that the forest has its ways, over and through all - its own stories and cycles. Those may lie beyond our reckoning but this book does its part to try. No one sets out to write myths, but this beautiful, honed, light-on-its-feet book carries more mythic gravity and resonance than anything I have read in years.— From Rick
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), Barkskins 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.'