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Alligator Paperback – 5 Jul 2007

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Product details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Virago; New edition edition (5 July 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1844081303
  • ISBN-13: 978-1844081301
  • Product Dimensions: 12.6 x 1.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,471,451 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Review

[She] is from Newfoundland - a rare and fortunate inheritance for any novelist. But she can also flat-out write, and would be a major find even if she came from Kansas (Richard Ford, author of Independence Day)

Compelling and rewarding . . . surprisingly emotional, rich with human feeling and insight. Moore has a keen ear for both dialogue and a well-turned phrase, and the writing is suffused with a reckless joy (Robert J. Wiersema, Quill & Quire)

'An astonishing writer. She brings to her pages what we are always seeking in fiction and only find in the best of it: a magnetizing gift for revealing how the earth feels, looks, tastes, smells (Richard Ford, author of Independence Day)

Book Description

From Newfoundland comes a fabulous new voice in a novel where humanity is a bizarre combination of the reptilian and the saintly. Shortlisted for the Scotiabank Giller, the Canadian Booker Prize and regional winner of the Commonwealth Writers Prize.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Leyla Sanai on 2 May 2007
Format: Paperback
I borrowed Lisa Moore's Alligator from the library when it was longlisted for The Orange prize this year. I still hadn't read it when the shortlist came out - it didn't make the shortlist, but I thought I'd give it a try anyhow. There is an endoresement from Richard Ford on the back which meant nothing to me (who he?) and the blurb on the back cover made it sound a bit like an Anita Shreve - lots of disparate characters with vague personality traits listed after their names. But it was actually a lot better than I suspected.

The book is made up of chapters centred around each of the main characters. The prose flits between past memories and the present situation. There is Colleen, who at 17 years is dangerously off the tracks and has been ever since her beloved step father David died four years previously. Naive environmental concerns collide with an anarchic disregard for convention, sparking internal combustion that leads her towards a path of delinquency. She is as convincing a character as MJ Hyland's first novel's heroine, confused, determined, irreverent and angry. Then there is Colleen's mother, Beverley, who is still feeling the loss of her husband and struggling to cope with Colleen's ever more outrageous acts of defiance. Across the city, there is Madeleine, Beverley's older sister, who left the only man she has ever loved in order to pursue a career making films. There is Frank, a young man who recently lost his mother and who makes a living for himself selling hotdogs. And there is the predatory Valentin, a Russian immigrant whose traumatic life experiences have curdled his personality into callousness and brutality.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Keris Nine TOP 500 REVIEWER on 14 Jun. 2006
Format: Paperback
To say that 'Alligator' is a character piece rather than a plot-driven novel is probably an understatement. The novel is divided into a number of brief chapters, each of them focussing individually one of seven or eight characters. Obviously to tie the characters lives together however, there are a number of minor interweaving plots, one of them involving a Russian gangster that is horrifying enough to keep you reading to see how things turn out - but the real motivating force in the novel is the development and expansion of the characters lives. Without getting overly psychoanalytical, it nevertheless manages to draw out subtle events from the characters lives that have had a profound effect on their outlook and behaviour - often involving the loss of a significant person in their lives, through divorce or bereavement.

This kind of detail is applied equally to everyone. There is Frank the hot-dog seller, who is being intimidated by Valentin, a Russian gangster. Also reluctantly mixed up in an insurance fraud scheme with him is Isobel, a young actress who is making a film with Madeline, a Newfoundland film director working on a movie she believes is going to be her final testament. Madeline's young niece Colleen is a rebellious environmental activist, who has her own demons to exorcise - an overwhelming impulse that drives here to seek out a man she has seen on a video tape, a man who has survived being pulled from the jaws of an alligator.

Lisa Moore's writing is such that the reader can equally identify with all the characters, understand where they are coming from and what motivates them.
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By vivanco on 29 Dec. 2007
Format: Paperback
I bought this book because the reviewer on the back said that the author was better than Annie Proulx. It was an awful book. Depressing, bitty, and in the end nothing happens. The only similarity with Annie Proulx is the geographical location.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)

Amazon.com: 11 reviews
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Newfoundland novel explores the effects of grief on character 5 Dec. 2006
By Lynn Harnett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
It's present-day St. John's, Newfoundland, a summer when the elm spanner worms (think gypsy moths at their very worst) munch their way through the trees, dropping disgustingly onto passersby.

Colleen, a 17-year-old would-be eco-terrorist, starts things off, downloading beheadings off the Internet while thumbing through "Cosmo." Then we meet Frank, a 19-year-old hot dog stand owner, newly out on his own after his mother's death. He is as hardworking, focused, sweet and lonely as Colleen is aimless, angry, and loved.

Then there's Madeleine, Colleen's glamorous, aging aunt, a film producer driven to finish her magnum opus before her weak heart kills her, and her sister Beverly, Colleen's mother, a tower of strength who's at her wit's end. Lastly we meet two secondary characters, Valentin, a Russian thug, as he likes to think of himself, and Isobel, Valentin's lover and the fading star of Madeleine's film.

Canadian author Lisa Moore's first novel moves from character to character, changing points of view with each brief chapter, sometimes moving from third to first person and shifting tenses from past to present.

Grief, the sort of grief that changes the course of life, preoccupies all of them. Colleen and Beverly still mourn the death of David, step-dad and husband, four years dead, while Frank thinks vividly of his mother's lingering cancer death and his awful, solitary vigil. And Madeleine still misses the husband she left 30 years before (and now talks to nightly while his pregnant young wife sleeps). Valentin mourns his lost, harsh childhood and Isobel mulls her regrets.

But this is not a dark or depressing novel - it's too full of energy and life. And Moore employs an adroit, dry humor to delineate character.

Beverly, who talks to strangers easily, advises a man on a Christmas present: "'Is she a stay-at-home Mom?' Beverly felt a mild disdain for women who gave up careers with the excuse of raising children when most normal people could do both, but she felt guilty about the opinion, and often claimed to be envious."

Madeleine, assessing yet another young romantic prospect: "Trevor Barker's apartment was in the same condo as Madeleine's on Military Road and was all coarse fibers and bran-coloured. It makes her worry about what he will cook."

Moore, twice a finalist for Canada's Giller Prize (for this novel and for the short story collection, "Open"), writes intense, precise and anecdotal prose. Her characters roil with strong emotions, which sometimes impel them to act and other times are tamped or subsumed by will. There's an edgy energy to this first novel, making the reader aware that anything can happen at any moment, some of it prompted by human action, some just unavoidable fate, like David's aneurysm or Frank's mother's cancer or Valentin's ruthless opportunism.

Each of her characters has learned this lesson, some better than others. Colleen steals a bottle of vodka and tries to return it for a bottle of wine just to see what will happen. This is the day before she is to be sentenced for her solitary act of eco-terror, pouring sugar into the fuel tanks of clear-cutting machines, an act which involved hours of dangerous effort, hitchhiking and walking through the dark woods, all to be undone in an instant - fleeing and leaving her backpack on the ground, complete with wallet and identification.

That night, afterwards, in an instant during a car accident when Colleen faces the prospect of death, she forgets what it is she's been sad about for so long.

"Then she remembered. She missed her stepfather.

"And because she had taken that brief break....because of that very uplifting rest, the grief came back triplefold.

"It was a sock in the gut and she lost her breath, which also may have had to do with the airbag and maybe a fractured rib."

Colleen is difficult to love. At her best she's self-absorbed, but even at her worst, there's a gulf of (self-absorbed) despair and regret that makes the reader sympathize with her, yet never persuades her to alter her course as she cuts a wide swath through other people's hearts.

Like Valentin, Colleen is a force of nature. But, given her privileged circumstances and the nurturing love in her life, you know her chances of outgrowing her destructiveness are good. Valentin, however, is purely repellant and scary, lost despite his sad past and moments of hope.

Moore mulls the effects social circumstances and random fate can have on the best and worst of characters and leaves the reader haunted by her story and the voices of her narrative. A powerful writer with an agile and lively imagination.

-- Portsmouth Herald
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
What I wouldn't be able to tell you in person 13 May 2012
By meeah - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback
The library is a place that I go looking for books that I almost never find. In their place, I find other books, books I've never heard of by authors whose existence I'd been previously unaware.

That is what led me to read this book by Lisa Moore. I'd gone looking for a book by Anne Lamott, any book, except the book they had, which was something about a mother who discovers her daughter is addicted to drugs. Blahg.

So I drifted up and down the aisles, looking for something. I didn't know what. I picked up a book by Doris Lessing. I picked up another book by someone else and put it back. My boyfriend said, "Take your time" and sat down under a window with his sunglasses on, dozing.

Nonetheless I felt pressured to hurry. Yet I didn't hurry. This is how I am when I'm searching among books. Lost in a world not quite this one.

Coincidentally, like Anne Lamott's book, "Alligator" is also about a mother with a troubled teenaged daughter. It's set in Newfoundland, wherever that is. Canada? Somewhere on the coast. There are ships.

I'm not interested in writing a typical review. I guess you could tell by now. I'm probably going to get a lot of "unhelpful" votes for this review. That's too bad. But it can't be helped. I'm writing this review to collect my thoughts about this book, to tell myself what I thought about it because I don't really know what I think until I do, to help myself remember it. I'm writing this review to inform myself. If I'm informing you, too, that's great. If not, then I'm sorry, but I'm not sorry enough to change anything. I guess that, too, is obvious.

Beverly's daughter Colleen has been caught vandalizing some tractors that belong to a developer tearing down a forest that happens to be the habitat of the endangered pine marten. Beverly has a sister, Madeline, a filmmaker, who is trying to finish her masterpiece before her inevitable heart attack. Frank is a young man with a hot dog stand and a dream. Valentin is a Russian thug who preys on the weak and vulnerable. Isobel is a beautiful but aging actress who is starring in Madeline's film and at the same time is tragically typecast as Valentin's victim.

There are other characters, each of them as quirky as the next. Each of them meant to be unforgettable. This is the kind of book that "Alligator" is.

There is a guy who survives having his head crushed in an alligator's jaws. Madeline once made a film about this. Colleen has seen it. She's going to run away from home and community service to visit this man in Louisiana.

Lisa Moore is a fantastic writer. This is not something I say about many writers, believe me. Why should you? There's no reason you should. I'll say it again, though. She's a fantastic writer. There are sentences, passages, many of them, entire paragraphs and pages that are written with the blinding intensity of poetry. Truth may be stranger than fiction, but "Alligator" proves that fiction can be more real than truth. Something is beating in these pages; it's a heart. When you hold open this book, you are holding something alive.

If I met you in the library and you asked me what to read, I'd press this book in your hands. I'd press it in your hands and I'd walk away. I would be unable to say all that I've said here. I wouldn't be able to say anything, probably. That's why I wrote it down instead. Because this is what I would have said, pressing the book into your hands before I walked away.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Destined for Newfie Lit 101 19 Jan. 2007
By D. P. Birkett - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Newfoundland has a certain mild fascination, sitting there right in the center of things and yet remote and cimmerian. We look down on it sometimes, as we fly between London and New York and wonder what it's like down there. In Anne Proulx's "Shipping News" and in the Vinland sagas everything is a little weird, but Lisa Moore's "Alligator" makes it sound a fairly normal piece of North America. People live in condominiums or suburban houses rather than wooden shacks or earth huts. They eat radicchio and sleep on futons and have their tongues pierced just like everyone else. Most of the local color is in a movie that Madeleine, one of the characters is producing, set in the 1820's about an archbishop making sure that churches have the proper chalices and making soup for his mother. Madeleine is suffering from chest pains and her sister Beverly is suffering from a tree-hugging promiscuous alligator-loving daughter, Colleen.Newfoundland's not a great place for alligator watchers so Colleen runs off to Louisiana with money she steals from Frank. Frank has a one night stand with Colleen but it mostly worried about his hot dog stand and what to do with his mother's ashes (all the males are upset by losing mothers) and by trying to avoid the depredations of Valentin, the nasty Russian who is having an affair with Isabel, who is acting in Madeleine's movie. The story is told MPOV with separate chapters for each POV.
There is some excellent writing, as in the quote in the New York Times review that led me to buy this. In fact it's amongst the best Newfoundland novels I've read so far this year.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Disappointing 19 Aug. 2013
By ipe - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I was disappointed by this book. The characters as such are interesting and even the style of writing where you seem to follow people's thoughts which jump from one subject to another could be interesting. If the story had had a beginning and an end it might have been a good book. Instead you drop into the lives of all these different characters. About two-thirds through the book connections are made between the characters and then it finishes without finishing any of the stories.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
Wonderful new author 12 Nov. 2013
By Rose Anne Goodin e - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Her characters are well written and believable. I had to read to find out what had happened to them. I am looking forward to reading her newer books.
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