A journey worth savoring: The Shipping News, by E. Annie Proulx

I’m a plot oriented reader. I’ve pulled my high school history lessons with me through my life like a collection of folk tales – so and so did that to those people, who did such and such in return. Names and dates fuzzy next to (for me) more important things like where are they now? What’s the moral of the story? Sometimes I read books like others travel a road: roaring through the journey, reveling in the twists and turns, but skimming over the details with eyes firmly set on the goal: who done it? Why and how? 

But sometimes a book comes along and pulls me up short. Makes me stop and look over a paragraph, a sentence, a twist of a phrase… over and over again. Turning the words in my mind; seeing the colors of the leaves drifting from the treetops. Holding my breath quiet, so I can hear the murmur of the wind drifting around the bend in the road. 

That’s what kind of book “The Shipping News”, by E. Annie Proulx, is. When the fisherman pulls his lobster trap up and over the side of his boat, the writer knits the words together in a way to make you see the water sloughing off through the weave of the cage, smell the bits of the living ocean that cling to the hook of the metal. When she sends waves roaring in off the wild April waters, you sink back into your sweater and are glad of your walls. And you read the words again, just for the thrill of it.

 “The Shipping News” will slow you down. It will coax you into the luxury of reading every single word, into remembering the names of its townspeople, and into paying attention to every twist and turn of their lives. And it will call to you again in a year or two, as it did to me, with its phrases singing to be read again. Give in. take your time. Enjoy the ride.


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