The painting on the cover of the New Press edition of this novel is a nude portrait of a beautiful blonde girl. She is obviously supposed to be Vera Lang, one of six Lang sisters in a farm family that lives on the Alberta-Saskatchewan border. The novel starts with her sunning herself in the nude in a field on the Bigknife River, where she is penetrated by a swarm of bees, leading her to utter orgasmic cries that are heard all over the town of Big Indian. This is probably already too much magic realism for a lot of readers, but it turns out the bees make the lovely Vera pregnant. While of course a biological absurdity one would think that the novelist would at least go with the premise and make the baby a hideous cross between a bee and a human. Instead he is a more or less normal boy except that his utterances sound vaguely like buzzing. Later when he is still a baby Vera drops the baby behind her when they are being pursued by a pack of wolves on a small sleigh driven by a single horse. This quite unmotherly act, which the author tries to convince us was logical, has, does not have the fatal consequences it would inevitably entail. Years later we learn that the son was raised by coyotes. (Where did they come from?) He returns to become a member of the Lang family years later, speaking a strange kind of English, although how he acquired it is a mystery since he seems to have gone directly from his coyote family back to his original family. No human stepparents are ever mentioned.
This kind of barebones summary doesn’t do justice to Kroetsch’s book. He is a caricaturist, not a novelist who deals in flesh-and-blood people, but the book is often very funny and it is a page turner. The review excerpts at the back of the book emphasize its sexual content, but this is a novel that seems to be obsessed with violent death, but always of the husbands, lovers, suitors or sons of the women in the novel. There certainly seems to be a strong element of misandry in the novel, as the males are always getting killed by doing dimwitted things that the women would never do.
one of the most erotic Canadian novels i've ever read. also sensuous, humourous & absurd. beautifully written by the master of Canlit, Robert Kroetsch.
AmandaEarl thinks this title is suitable for 18 years and over
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