cover image Postcards


Annie Proulx, E. Annie Proulx. Scribner Book Company, $22.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-684-18718-1

In this poignant first novel by Proulx ( Heart Songs and Other Stories ), artfully misspelled postcards form the tenuous links between ill-fated young trapper Loyal Blood and his family--Mink and Jewelle, Dub and Mernelle--who eke a meager existence from their ancestral Vermont farm. When Loyal accidentally kills his saucy redheaded sweetheart Billy while making love in the fields, he hides her body in a stone-covered fox den. Abruptly he tells his family that he and Billy are heading west to ``make a new start.'' In a vengeful rage his father Mink shoots Loyal's cows. Loyal endures harsh years of self-imposed exile as, from 1944 to the '80s, he roves from job to job--mining, fossil picking, trapping--each authoritatively detailed. Racked with gagging seizures whenever he tries to touch another woman, sick in his lungs, Loyal doggedly accepts his lot without complaint. Back home the violent, feckless Bloods fall into ruin, attempting arson, serving jail terms and losing the farm, which is sold for trailer parks. Flurries of postcards fly, both personal and commercial: brother Dub answers one for an artificial limb, desperate sister Mernelle responds to a lonely lumberman's ad for a wife. Proulx writes a rich, sensuous prose; she captures the earthy, hard-bitten voices of men and women resigned to travail and documents the passing of an epoch. If there is a fault, it is the overabundance of minor characters randomly introduced into the narrative. (Jan.)