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The Shipping News

The Shipping News

Read by: Robert Joy
  • reading group guide
  • 2awards
At thirty-six, Quoyle, a third-rate newspaperman, is wrenched violently out of his workaday life when his two-timing wife gets her just desserts. He retreats with his two daughters to his ancestral home on the starkly beautiful Newfoundland coast, where a rich cast of local characters all play a part in Quoyle's struggle to reclaim his life. As three generations of his family cobble up new lives, Quoyle confronts his private demons -- and the unpredictable forces of nature and society -- and begins to see the possibility of love without pain or misery.
A vigorous, darkly comic, and at times magical portrait of the contemporary American family, The Shipping News shows why Annie Proulx is recognized as one of the most gifted and original writers in America today.
  • Simon & Schuster Audio | 
  • ISBN 9780743540575 | 
  • December 2001
List Price $39.50
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Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Discussion Points

  1. Proulx describes Quoyle as "a great damp loaf of a body." What kind of man is Quoyle? How does Proulx's sublime, comic style make you feel about him?
  2. When Quoyle writes for the Mockingburg Record he never seems to understand the dynamics of journalism, yet in writing "The Shipping News" he transforms The Gammy Bird and eventually becomes managing editor of the paper. Discuss some of the other changes Quoyle experiences from the beginning of the novel to the end.
  3. As Quoyle arrives in Newfoundland, he hears much of his family's past. In fact, there is an old relative, "some kind of fork kin," still alive in Newfoundland. Why does Quoyle avoid Nolan -- seem angry at the old man from the start? Is the reason as simple as Quoyle denying where he came from, especially after learning the details of his father's relationship with the aunt?
  4. Proulx tells us the aunt is a lesbian, yet never makes a specific issue out of the aunt's sexual orientation. Does this fact add dimension to the story for you? Does it add to the aunt's character? We, as readers, assume that characters are heterosexual without needing to hear specifically about their sexual life. Does the matter-of-course way Proulx treats the aunt's sexuality help make the reader a less judgmental critic?
  5. Discuss Quoyle's relationship with Petal Bear. Can you justify his feelings for her? Even after her death, she continues
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More Books from this Author

About the Author

Annie Proulx
Gus Powell

Annie Proulx

Annie Proulx is the author of eight books, including the novel The Shipping News and the story collection CloseRange. Her many honors include a Pulitzer Prize, a National Book Award, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and a PEN/Faulkner award. Her story “Brokeback Mountain,” which originally appeared in The New Yorker, was made into an Academy Award-winning film. Her most recent book is Fine Just the Way It Is. She lives in Wyoming.

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