Ian Sansom writes:
David Vann’s novel – his debut, after a short story collection, Legend of a Suicide (2008), and a memoir, A Mile Down (2005) – is a book that makes Cormac McCarthy’s The Road read like a walk in the park. Compared to Caribou Island, The Road is grim-lit lite. After 200 pages of unrelenting misery, McCarthy breaks down and accepts the possibility of grace: after a long trudge through a post-apocalyptic landscape, a woman turns up on the last page, out of the blue, and says: ‘The breath of God was his breath yet though it pass from man to man through all of time.’ So that’s nice: there’s a glimmer, or a gasp, some mist on the mirror. Vann, on the other hand, after a similar slog, stands his ground, holds his breath, and neither offers nor accepts any mercy.