I think Annie Proulx deserves to be called the Mistress of Bizarre Deaths. The cruel ways in which characters meet their ends was already what I remember her Wyoming stories for, but this book tops all of those!
The only stable factor within Accordion Crimes (except for the deaths) is a little green accordion, which throughout the book gets into the hands of countless people from various descent. Roughly a century goes by, while Proulx takes us on a wild and windy road through her limitlrss fantasy. The book is divided into 8 parts, and each of those has families with other roots in focus: Italian, African, German, Irish, French, Mexican, Polish, Norwegian, and travelling through the States of Louisiana, Iowa, Texas, Maine, Illinois, Montana, and Mississippi. While telling stories of ordinary people, all with some interest in accordion/traditional/folk music, Proulx gives us insight into the history of migrants, acceptance, assimilation or staying true your own traditions, and racism in the US. Even within the seperate parts of the books there are short stories, which makes me marvel about the immense variety of stories and character Annie Proulx has in store. Her harsh humor made me smile quite some times, the US is a bitter country when you base your impressions on Proulx' narrations. Nevertheless, I always love to get lost in them.
This book is exactly how I know Annie Proulx: a bit harsh, a tad mysterious, and taking place in a small forgotten town somewhere in the middle of nowhere in the United States. The story centers around Quoyle, a middle-aged man who lost his parents after they jointly committed suicide. He’s married to an abusive woman, Petal, who openly sleeps with other men and does drugs. When she and her drug-addict boyfriend try to sell Quoyle’s daughters, Petal dies in a car accident. The police returns the two girls to Quoyle, whose life is really falling apart at this time. Without having to much of a plan, he drives to Newfoundland, where his father grew up and his aunt Agnes is still living. Agnes convinces him to stay and build up a life of his own here. He finds a job at the local newspaper, where he’s to write about accidents as well as incoming and outgoing ships; the shipping news.
He meets several locals and step by step learns more about his ancestors. The life on the wild island transforms him. It’s like he’s finally finding to himself, discovering his inner worth, and emerges from his shell. This allows him to develop a close friendship and eventually a relationship to a woman, Wavey. He learns that human relationships can be enriching and not just threatening. Beautiful!