Sitting on a deck in northeastern Minnesota along the shores of beautiful Whiteface Lake, a serene and quiet environ, sipping a cold beer at height of waning summer, what could be better than to bathe oneself in pure, unadulterated literary brilliance? Get the point? This is Proulx at her very best. It is indeed worthy of all the accolades and awards and praise it received when it was released nearly 30 years ago.
Proulx frames her timeless story of love, loss, and family within a series of postcards, hence the novel’s title. Along this amazing journey, we meet Loyal Blood, his father, mother, sister, and brother and follow them across both time and the landscape as they seek to find relevance and companionship and a sense of belonging in mid-20th century America. There is no hero or heroine in this short, terse, quickly paced tale of angst and desire and longing. For the most part, Loyal is indeed the protagonist of the plot. But he is, as we quickly learn, not a good or kind or exemplary person. He is flawed, fatally so, as are essentially all the members of his immediate family and their neighbors. In the hands of a lesser novelist, that alone could lead one to conclude the book and seek solace in liquor stronger than a cold beer. But, and here is the key to enjoying this dark tale, in the hands of a master storyteller like Proulx, the Loyal family saga sings; if only in a somber, minor key.
If you haven’t read Proulx (The Shipping News, Close Range, and Brokeback Mountain being some of her better known titles), Postcards is a good place to start.
5 stars out of 5. A fine book club selection.