Friday, January 29, 2010

317. World’s End – T. Coraghessan Boyle

History: Published in 1987, it is the winner of the 1988 PEN/Faulkner Award for American Fiction.
Plot: The novel is essentially about Walter Van Brunt, a twenty something year old, after a night of partying, seeing ghosts of his parents and ancestors, and getting in an accident in which he lost his foot. Boyle calls it a “collision with history.” And we are thrown back to the 17th century when the Dutch first settled the Hudson River Valley, the haunted lands of Nysen’s Roost, and the Indians who lived there way before the greedy Dutch Patroon, the Patriarch of the Van Wart Family, settled there. The book explores the relationships between families, Indians, land disputes, and ancient conflicts that were never resolved, and still exist during Walter’s time.
Walter’s father, Truman, betrayed his friends and family to the Van Wart “Vader”, Depeyster, and left town in shame and bitterness. Walter is trying not to be like his father, but ends up doing the same. Cheating on his wife with Mardi VanWart, getting in another accident and losing his other foot, going to work for Depeyster, and eventually finding his father in Alaska, who gives him his side of the story, tells him the ancient family rivalry, and that betrayal is in his blood.
In the end, Walter is like his father, he sinks the beloved boat of his best friend that was to be the icon for peace and happiness with the liberals, the hippies. He freezes to death after getting stuck in a snow drift.
Worlds End is the deepest part of the Hudson River, in which ships have sunk and never been recovered.
Review: I really loved this book. The idea that our conflicts within ourselves is “in the blood” is very interesting to me. The novel is really about Walter's search for his mysteriously missing black sheep of a father, Truman - an enigma till the end - and as he drives himself and others crazy discovering his past and how the histories of three feuding clans are inextricably bound by blood, hatred and deceit, he comes face to face with the shocking truth that in three hundred years, nothing changes and humanity is powerless against the forces that threaten to engulf them.
Opening Line: “On the day he lost his right foot, Walter Van Brunt had been haunted, however haphazardly, by ghosts of the past.”
Closing Line: “After his father.”
Quotes: “Cows calved and goats kidded, the earth spread its legs to receive the annual offering of seed, crops grew tall through the mellow months of summer and fell to scythe and mathook in the fall.”
Rating: Absolutely superb!

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