On the storm-battered shores of David Vann's Caribou Island (Harper, Jan.), we witness Gary and Irene's long-dead marriage rendered asunder. The brutal environment perfectly reflects the violent nature of the relationship as it's absorbed into the glacial winds. This tortured dissolution of dreams is simply exquisite. As Gary spirals off into his ill-conceived cabin building, Irene succumbs to a tragic past. You struggle helplessly to see their children as beacons of hope, but no. If Jack London and Raymond Carver could time travel, move to Iowa, get married, and raise an adopted son, this is the story he would write—sparse, unforgiving, man against nature, and man against his own nature. The son would realize he was going to lose... and then he would. Yes, it's that dire, and it will stick with you for a very, very long time.