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on 11 November 2014
This is the story of Loyal Blood, brought up in a poor farming family in Vermont in the 1920s, who accidentally kills his girlfriend and then spends the next fifty years going on a personal Oddysey through the United States. Every year he sends a postcard to his family back home, not realising that, since the War has come and gone they have mostly scattered to the four winds and that nobody reads his cards anymore. Strenuously avoiding all romantic contact with women in case he repeats the episode that drove him from home, he works his way through a number of different occupations, becoming expert in many of them yet driven on by his unstill spirit to abandon what he is good at in favour of something new...

Comparisons with Steinbeck are inevitable in a work that deals with the people of the byways; cities don't figure in the narrative at all, only farms, small hamlets and wayside bars smelling of stale beer and cigarettes burnt into the plastic tabletops. We meet and become well acquainted with the kinds of people you never hear of anywhere else - Basque trappers who go bush crazy from the solitude of their work, Cornish miners who can smell uranium deposits, fossil hunters in the Utah badlands, cattle farmers whose main staple of conversation is the best way to kill yourself when it all gets too much.
Yet Proulx gets under the skin of her characters in a way that Steinbeck doesn't - his characters, though undoubtedly vivid, tend, in books like "Tortilla Flats" and "Cannery Row", to react to events rather than initiate them, to hang off the pegs of the story rather than BE the story. Though she always writes in the third person, Proulx burrows to the very essence of the people she writes about, so that you almost feel yourself wearing them, like a second skin.
I was astonished to find, when I'd nearly finished the book, that it was her first novel. Some reviewers have found it a little too episodic in form, even disjointed , as it moves from one character to another across fifty years, but I didn't mind that at all; she is such a skillful writer that I found the transitions seamless.
Though I finished it some time ago, it haunts me as few other books do. I keep thinking of different bits of it - the mine that Loyal gets trapped in for ten days; how his brother Dub, one-armed and thought to be a simpleton, prospers when he washes up in Florida; what happens to Ma when she decides to drive her new VW across a mountain ridge in driving snow...
And I think of Loyal himself, what becomes of him after all that he's seen and done...
As you'll have guessed, I loved this book; it's joined the small but distinguished number of books that I'll keep to read again one day, once I can get the final images out of my mind.
Go on, live dangerously; give it a go.
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on 23 February 1999
About three years ago, I stumbled across Postcards in an airport bookstore, and I couldn't put it down for the 3 days that I was away from home. It is the only book I have ever read by Proulx, but the images from Postcards seem to be etched in my mind. Think of a favorite movie- and the scene or image that will never go away. That's what this book offers: vivid, emotional images. It's a book that I have always wanted to recommend to someone, the kind of book that makes me wish I was reading it for a literature class so that I could talk about it with others, analyze it, and truly appreciate it. It is a beautifully written, heart-wrenching story. As I recall, an observation I had while reading Postcards was that Proulx was noticably sympathetic to her female characters - they seemed to be victims of circumstance - while her male characters were often the cause of their own undoing. This realization actually enhanced my enjoyment of the book, by making me conscious of the author and allowing a certain amount of disconnect from the characters- necessary to keep from getting too emotionally connected to these tragic characters.
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VINE VOICEon 28 October 2007
Some people really do not like this book. Some have given it one star in a review, and others have complained that it does not stand up next to Proulx's much more famous "The Shipping News", yet I feel moved to come to its defence. This is Proulx's first novel, and, for those who do now know the storyline, it begins with the collapse of a family unit on a small farm and goes on to chart the progress (in inverted commas) of the members of that family across the geography and time of the United States in the 20th century.

The fiercest accusation levelled at this book is that it lacks a plot, and I would be inclined to agree, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. Indeed, I often find that otherwise good books are spoiled by their plots, and many of my favourites have no plot at all. This is an episodic, thematic approach to writing, but one could argue that this is perhaps closer to how we experience the world than a meticulously planned thriller which leads you by the nose to its ravishing conclusion.

Proulx does take a gloomy view of the world in this book, but again that is to be applauded, but that places it in a very fine tradition of American writing (think of how relentlessly depressing "The Grapes of Wrath" is, and that book is twice as long as this). It is not perfect, and it needs to be read quickly for it not to become slightly tiresome, but it is a fine, and adventurous piece of fiction.
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on 4 February 1997
I haven't read anything like this before in my life. Much like Quoyle from E. Annie Proulx's pulitzer prize winning novel _The Shipping News_, the characters in _Postcards_are all tragically affectionate. Each member of the Blood family has his or her own hopeful view of their world--a world of hard work and conflict in the name of love and freedom--and I'm sure every reader can identify with some or all of their American family values. E. Annie Proulx writes with a style entirely her own that weaves itself inside and out of the lives of these characters and the western, southern, and northeastern settings they live in. In many unsuspecting places, _Postcards_ is laden with irony; for example, the character named Loyal Blood is perhaps the strongest in the novel but accidentally commits murder and spends his life drifting back and forth across the country. This novel spans generations and time zones, and likewise readers of all ages and from all places will love and hate the rich world of poverty and struggle inside _Postcards_.
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on 3 April 2012
This stupendous 1992 debut novel won the prestigious 'PEN/Faulkner for Fiction'. It is a dramatic family history starting in 1926, ending in the late 1980's. Above all, this book is about a Vermont farmer's son Loyal Blood, who killed his girlfriend Billy in 1944, hid her remains and fled his parents' farm durng dinner. For the next 40+ years Loyal sends postcards (always of the same black bear) to inform his family about how he is doing. His mother Jewell saves them all in a cookie tin. Early on Loyal wrote that Billy had left him. And he always asks: "How are you all doing, and the farm?" And always without a return address...
Readers can follow Loyal's lifelong quest for remorse and acceptance in 58 short chapters, during which he works in many outdoor professions, such as trapper, prospector, dinosaur bone searcher, etc... And read about the many mishaps and few successes of his parents, his brother and sister and other characters, and the Vermont farm itself. Which Loyal never learns about. He is gutted with guilt, cannot be touched by women anymore (except for one event he describes in his exercise book and quickly crosses out). Later in life, he is intrigued by young Jase, perhaps foreshadowing AP's later story "Two Cowboys/ Brokeback Mountain", made into a movie and adding further luster to AP's already awesome reputation.
Who is Annie Proulx (1935)? A mother of four with experience in journalism, a demon researcher with shelves full of books, maps and her own files full of details on professions, flora and fauna, climate and weather, tales of disaster, etc. This book is both a novel and a string of tall stories, miniature dramas about how people die or just escape, became rich or went bankrupt, how freak events can turn hardworking, struggling people's lives upside down.
Stunning novel. Many first-time readers of Annie Proulx's novels or collections of short stories, have decided to read more of her work. Join them. Never a dull moment.
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on 28 April 1999
I found this book life-giving, although my husband found it depressing. While it details the breakup of a family farm with disaster following upon disaster, somehow people keep going even when they are in the process of losing everthing. The book is beautifully crafted. It affected me deeply.
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on 30 September 1996
If the price of a book depended on the richness of the writing, and the complexity of the characters and plot, no library in the world would have been able to afford this book. I have also read _The Shipping News_ by E. Annie Proulx, which won the 1994 Pulitzer Prize. This book won the Pen/Faulkner Award. And no wonder. Both books are extraordinary, but I think I liked this one better.

Here Proulx introduces us to the Blood family, a group of people who are so oddly timeless that they could just as well have lived prehistorically as during the latter part of this century. Their lives are grueling, nearly devoid of love and affection, and they doggedly accept this fate as if nothing else existed in the world. They move through their worlds, leaving no mark, and yet there is a fascination with them, as if they were the movers and shakers of the country. This is entirely due to some of the best writing that has ever been committed to paper. What is even more extraordinary is that this is Proulx's first novel.

All I can say is, read this book--it'll knock your socks off.
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on 29 July 1999
Proulx is an amazing writer, and I was deeply drawn to her characters. Having grown up in a small town in New Hampshire, the Blood's saga was a little too familiar-accidents, lost love, cold family relationships, and the loss of the simplicity of a past age(which was actually never all that simple). While I appreciated her talent, this story was just so bleak, that I had to put it down for days before I was compelled to pick it up again.
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on 16 December 1998
In a way there's a body and a perpetrator and a thriller plot somewhere, but this is very much secondary to cracking novel about people and place. The book has a terrific feeling for the insignificant small bits that make up the US's Big Country.
We never really know the dead person. The bigger tragedy is the events that happen to the killer and his family members over the years that follow, often in isolation. The postcards device itself, is damn clever.
Read The Shipping News? Yes. Liked it? Read this.
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on 19 July 1997
First I read Shipping News and I was astonished. Then I read Postcards and I was amazed. Then I read Accordion Crimes and I fell on my knees and raised my face to the sky and thanked the Universe for being alive in the days when E. Annie Proulx is alive and writing. Bravo!
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