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Vandal Love: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Deni Béchard
3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)

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Book Description

An astonishing novel of epic ambition, Vandal Love—winner of the prestigious Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for best first book in 2007—follows generations of a unique French-Canadian family across North America and through the twentieth century.

A family curse—a genetic trick resulting from centuries of hardship—causes the Hervé children to be born either giants or runts. Book One follows the giants’ line, exploring Jude Hervé’s career as a boxer in Georgia and Louisiana in the 1960s, his escape from that brutal life alone with his baby daughter Isa, and her eventual decision to enter into a strange, chaste marriage with a much older man. Book Two traces a different kind of life entirely, as the runts of the family discover that their power lies in a kind of unifying love. François seeks the identity of his missing father for years, while his own son, Harvey, flees from modern society into spiritual quests. But none of the Hervés can abandon their longing for a place where they might find others like themselves.

In assured and mystically powerful prose, Deni Y. Béchard tells a wide-ranging, spellbinding story of a family trying to create an identity in an unwelcoming landscape. Imbued throughout with a deep sensitivity to the physical world, Vandal Love is a breathtaking literary debut about the power of love to create and destroy—in our lives, and in our history.


Editorial Reviews

Review

“Over a vast yet beautifully coherent canvas, Vandal Love follows the panic and privilege of human longing through an amazing coalition of loneliness and adaptation. These characters — injured but unbowed, broken but enduring — introduce a gifted new writer. Béchard’s surety of voice and confident narrative span declare a first rate novel and an eloquent debut.” — Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, jury comments

Vandal Love is a generational novel with a difference. It has a magical touch. . . . Complex, perplexing, but lyrical, this is a novel that will sweep you away with its scope, energy and ambition. Only time will tell if Vandal Love is remembered in a decade. My guess is yes.” —The Sun Times (Owen Sound)

“Béchard is an ambitious and skillful storyteller. His specialty is finding words to describe longing. . . . The cover blurb for Vandal Love says it is about the power of love, but I thought is was more about blood: what our veins inherit, and how it both holds and haunts us.” —Georgia Straight

“Masterful storytelling and heartbreakingly beautiful writing--Vandal Love delivers this and more in an epic tale of love, family, and country. I could not put it down, and when the journey finally ended, I refused to lend my copy and instead bought extras to spread the joy.” -- Loung Ung, author of Lucky Child and First They Killed My Father.

"The word 'masterpiece' is not to be used lightly, but one is tempted in the case of Vandal Love, for the scope of its ambition, its originality, and its muscular use of language conjure a young Faulkner, Garcia Marquez, or Steinbeck." -- Katherine Min, author of Secondhand World

“Although Vandal Love is a first novel, it reads as smoothly as if [Béchard] had a library to his name – mature, lyrical, tactile and at times simple, cruel and sweet. . . . No doubt, the giant steps this young writer has taken will set him far ahead on his literary path.”
– Calgary Herald (Interview, 28 Jan 2006)

"D.Y. Béchard surpasses Kerouac in his consciousness of the French as part of a larger people, how their struggle is socially and politically situated rather than strictly personal ... Vandal Love seems like a trans-generational On the Road, which, also infused with a kind of inherited defeatism, was the perfect Americanized expression of an unexamined Existentialism, the ultimate Beat utterance."
—Michel Basilieres, The Globe and Mail

"Lyrical, compelling, moving (both figuratively and literally) the characters in Vandal Love drift and converge and procreate and take flight like birds on the wing."
—Margaret MacPherson, Edmonton Journal

"The novel beautifully evokes that eternal theme of the outsider, the outcast, the freak, in the search to find a place, albeit more of the soul than of the corporeal, that can be called home."
—Laurel Smith, Quill and Quire

"One part Jack Kerouac, one part William Faulkner, D.Y. Béchard has shaped Vandal Love into a heartfelt and sweeping narrative that follows the quest of damaged personalities who seek to become whole again. A searching and mystical novel imbued with sensitivity and grace, it has thrust Béchard centre stage as an up-and-coming literary contender and a new voice to be reckoned with."
—M.J. Stone, The Hour

"Vandal Love is a point of reference for authors who set out to tackle the challenges of writing a multigenerational story. . . He shines in his ability not only to bridge the generation gap but to connect the two "books" . . . The effect is near seamless, the unfolding of events written with surgical precision. It would be a shame if Béchard is not recognized for the new voice and talent that he is."
—Tyler Bradley, Vancouver Sun

"The author weaves his lyrical and image-rich prose through the pages of Vandal Love with the audacity of a virtuoso. Béchard seems poised to walk among the giants of the Canadian literary scene."
—Dan Naccarato, Now

"D.Y. Béchard tells a grand, sprawling story that spans five generations in the life of a Quebec family. Béchard's writing at its strongest flows in sonorous passages, it evokes memorable landscapes, natural and urban, and examines the enduring qualities of a family separated by both time and distance... Béchard's manic imagination contains echoes of the magic realism of the South American master Gabriel Garcia Marquez or, closer to home, the tall tales of western Canadian literary heavyweight Robert Kroetsch Writing in English "
–Glenn Bergen, Winnipeg Free Press

"Readers who find this sort of thing poetically true no doubt also love the more fanciful narratives of Michael Ondaatje and Jane Urquhart ."
Philip Marchand, Toronto Star

"Its themes are loss and displacement, its style lyrical and ambition considerable. It makes, in other words, quite a first impression. A young writer needs luck to have this kind of material at hand and guts to pursue it...it has the feel of a novel that's been a lifetime in the making...There's a tinge of Faulkner's defeated South in Vandal Love, too."
–Joel Yanofsky, Montreal Gazette

"Béchard's improvised, riff-heavy narrative resembles Salman Rushdie more than Gabria Garcia Marquez, as it plays with the idea of exile as both a genetic inheritance and a spiritual purgatory. Disconnected from their heritage and scattered across the continent, the Herv és are nevertheless haunted by the same spritual vacuum."
–Kevin Wong, National Post

"Vandal Love is a spectacular beginning to D.Y. Béchard's writing career...There's something of the storytelling of E. Annie Proulx here; brutal yet tender, simple yet incredibly moving."
–Claire Stirling, Calgary Herald

“In Vandal Love D.Y. Béchard has re-invented the generational novel with innovative brilliance. The book has all the quirky depth of a great HBO series and a line-to-line literary energy that is very rare.  This is an enormously impressive debut by a clearly gifted writer.”
—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

Vandal Love is a lyrical, generational story of a family haunted by God who is not above, but is nature — who is in the chromosomes that make for big and small, strong and weak, who is inside exquisitely cruel and hard journeys, who is the squeak of snow under boots in Quebec, or a mosquitoed sweat on a bare, muscled boxer in Louisiana. Reminiscent of Proulx and Doctorow in both sweep and grace of prose, it is hard to believe that Vandal Love, so elegant and accomplished, is only Bechard's first novel.”
—Dagoberto Gilb, Author of The Magic of Blood and Woodcuts of Women


From the Hardcover edition.

Review

Praise for Vandal Love:

"Don't think of Vandal Love as a page-turner. It's a novel you'll want to read slowly, savoring prose that's both lyrical and gritty, able to evoke big emotions with exquisite intimacy. Deni Y. Béchard's masterful debut sweeps through North America from rural early-20th-century Quebec to an ashram in 21st-century-New Mexico, following several generations of a French-Canadian family in which 'children were born alternately brutes or runts.' Family patriarch Hervé Hervé, a farmer and fisherman who speaks of his larger children as 'keepers' (some of the small ones he actually gives away), 'had become as hard as the country...so that it was he his children now fled.' As Herve's progeny scatter south and west from Quebec, each is driven by a visceral longing to connect, whether to God or mere humans. But whatever happiness they manage to find never lasts long. Inevitably Hervé's descendants leave, or are left by, anyone who could soothe their loneliness. And the path to God is, as one character comes to realize, 'the least sure of all roads.' If this unusual story--like its characters--occasionally seems to wander without a clear destination, the final stunningly poignant pages prove that Béchard knew exactly where he was taking us all along."
O, The Oprah Magazine

"This dreamlike novel spans five generations in the lives of a French-Canadian family of misfits....a strange and beautiful first novel...built sentence by luminous, surprising sentence."
—Brigitte Frase, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"In this moving and entertaining debut, the Hervé family suffers from a genetic quirk—or divine malady—that results in their children growing into towering brutes or sickly runts. In mid-20th–century Quebec, the hard drinking patriarch Hervé Hervé reduces his family by lending—or simply giving away—the runts, while keeping the giants for labor. Set both in Canada and several American states, from Maine to New Mexico, and spanning more than half a century, the novel divides itself between the isolated introspective pugilist giant Jude, and François, a sociable, religious runt. Though the two Hervé brothers are very different in appearance, they both feel the need to strike out alone, creating their own families and identities in transcontinental voyages. This is both a road novel and a voyage through time, with each of the book’s two parts covering the lifetimes of several family members in an examination of the Hervé lineage. Ruminations abound on sex, violence, and the bonds between people. Though Béchard (Cures for Hunger, a memoir) has a journalism background, this fiction debut, unfolding in punchy prose, recalls Márquez with a French-Canadian twist. "
Publishers Weekly (starred)

"Béchard has a voice and a vision all his own, both tough-minded and passionately emotional."
Kirkus (starred)

"A family mythos reminiscent of Faulkner."
—Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist

“An enormously impressive debut by a clearly gifted writer.”
—Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent From A Strange Mountain

Vandal Loveintroduces a gifted new writer. Béchard’s surety of voice and confident narrative span declare a first rate novel and an eloquent debut.”
—Commonwealth Judging Panel

“Reminiscent of Proulx and Doctorow in both sweep and grace of prose, it is hard to believe that Vandal Love, so elegant and accomplished, is only Béchard's first novel.”
—Dagoberto Gilb, Author of The Magic of Blood and Woodcuts of Women

“The word 'masterpiece' is not to be used lightly, but one is tempted in the case of Vandal Love, for the scope of its ambition, its originality, and its muscular use of language conjure a young Faulkner, Garcia Marquez, or Steinbeck.”
—Katherine Min, author of Secondhand World

“Masterful storytelling and heartbreakingly beautiful writing—Vandal Love delivers this and more in an epic tale of love, family, and country. I could not put it down, and when the journey finally ended, I refused to lend my copy and instead bought extras to spread the joy.”
—Loung Ung, author of Lucky Child and First They Killed My Father

“Béchard's writing, at its strongest, flows in sonorous passages, evokes memorable landscapes, natural and urban, examines the enduring qualities of a family separated by both time and distance, and contains echoes of the magic realism of the South American master Gabriel García Márquez.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“Deni Y. Béchard surpasses Kerouac in his consciousness of the French as part of a larger people, how their struggle is socially and politically situated rather than strictly personal . . . Vandal Love seems like a trans-generational On the Road, which, also infused with a kind of inherited defeatism, was the perfect Americanized expression of an unexamined Existentialism, the ultimate Beat utterance.”
The Globe and Mail

“Although Vandal Love is a first novel, it reads as smoothly as if Béchard had a library to his name--mature, lyrical, tactile and at times simple, cruel and sweet. No doubt, the giant steps this young writer has taken will set him far ahead on his literary path.”
Calgary Herald

“Highly original, poetically charged, compelling, beautifully crafted, visceral, sonorous, visionary. . . . Béchard's prose, at once lyrical and tight, is mesmerizing, with resonances of Marquez, Faulkner, and Ondaatje–yet it is very much Béchard's own. Vandal Love is a saga of family and history, love and isolation, strength and vulnerability, suffering and redemption.”
—Off The Shelf, Boston Globe book blog

Praise for Cures for Hunger

"Béchard's sad and moving memoir is all about secrets and regret and, ultimately, finding peace."
— Jim Carmin, Minneapolis Star Tribune

"A poignant but rigorously unsentimental account of hard-won maturity."
Kirkus Reviews

"A coming-of-age story of lost innocence, violence, and tenderness by a writer obsessed with the man who influenced him the most but was there the least."
—Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist

"In Cures For Hunger, Deni Y. Bechard has created a moving story of rootlessness, rebellion, lost love, criminal daring, regret, and restless searching. Driven above all by the need to grasp his father's secrets, he has written his narrative in skillful, resonant prose graced with a subtle tone of obsession and longing."
—Leonard Gardner, author of Fat City

"This powerful and haunting memoir is a must-read for anyone who has ever struggled to uncover their identity within the shadow of a parent. Written in exquisitely sharp prose, Béchard combs through his attempt to understand his father's mysterious existence with inspiring precision. This book is huge and achingly true."
—Claire Bidwell Smith, author of The Rules of Inheritance

"You haven't read a story like this one, even if your father was the kind of magnificent scoundrel you only find in Russian novels. Béchard is the rare writer who knows the secret to telling the true story. Just because the end is clear doesn't mean the bets are off."
—Marlon James, author of The Book of Night Women

“Béchard writes that prison taught his father ‘the nature of the self, the way it can be shaped and hardened.’ As in a great novel, this darkly comic and lyrical memoir demonstrates the shaping of its author, who suffers the wreckage of his father's life, yet manages to salvage all the beauty of its desperate freedoms. Béchard's poetic gifts give voice to the outsiders of society, and make them glow with humanity and love.”
—Elizabeth McKenzie, author of Stop That Girl

Cures for Hunger is the best book I picked up at Winter Institute 7, and that alone would have made the trip worth it. The author tells the story of his extraordinary upbringing in British Columbia mostly influenced by a father who enjoyed cheating death by doing everything from racing trains at railroad crossings to fighting anyone who crossed him. The even wilder deeds of his father’s past couldn’t be kept secret, and as they were slowly revealed, this loving and bizarre Dad shaped the life of his son. Deni Bechard has done a masterful job of taking all that life has dealt him, accepting it and analyzing it in a fascinating piece of literature. I found myself alternating between cringing and laughing with each page. “
—Peter Schertz, Maria’s Bookshop, Durango, CO

"Deni Y. Bachard's early childhood in British Columbia was filled with a Tom Sawyerish adventure filled lifestyle that most boys could only dream of. His idol during this time was his father Andre, a no nonsense, rough around the edges French Canadian whose shady past was always only a step behind him. After a shocking split between his parents, Deni's new life with his mother in America leaves much to be desired. His inner battle between the two worlds he cherishes has him constantly guessing which path to take. Only through choosing his own way does he discover that the life he always wanted is far from the life he truly needs."
—Matt Falvey, Next Chapter Bookshop, Mequon, WI

Product Details

  • File Size: 482 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0385660529
  • Publisher: Milkweed Editions (May 15, 2012)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B007OVT9NC
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #920,231 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I remember biking once along the rural coast in Western Ireland, when I came across a small herd of goats. As I had just come around a bend in the road, I guess I startled them, and several started off bleating, or whatever the sound is that goats make. Three of the goats, however, turned stock-still, keeled over, and were frozen with their legs completely stiff and up in the air. I almost fell off my bike in amazement, and for some time afterwords I thought I must have dreamed it. I found out later that this response is due to some mutation in a chloride channel (CLIC to be more precise), which while settling my mind that it wasn't a hallucination, sort of ruined the magic for me. Anyway, this book reminded me of that experience over and over again. The magic that we fail to notice but others live with as common experience.

Bechard's simple language often captures drops of life like I haven't found since reading Hopscotch over and over obsessively years ago: "There was nothing worse than thinking about God alone. It was very lonely." I've managed to find myself there more than once...Too much existential longing? No, these characters have lives to live and mouths to feed. Only Harvey can afford to indulge in such escapism, and perhaps that's why I didn't find him terribly appealing.

If you don't find yourself falling in love at first with Jude or Isa or Francois, read it again. They don't shout their messages. It's more like that longing glance that you get from a lover telling you that your wanted or that tell-tale averted glance that your not. More feeling is found in the physical decription of a scene, which for some reason is how I read emotional weather reports. So perhaps that's why I get it...

I think I'll post more when I've further digested this more thoroughly, but I think these characters are destined for history- like Steinbeck's Lenny or Dostoevsky's Raskolnikov. Characters who taught you something, without trying.
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2.0 out of 5 stars So disappointed. December 14, 2014
Format:Kindle Edition
I was disappointed. The blurb tells a story of a really unusual family and I paid painful attention at the beginning to make sure I understood the lineage. Then the book is 'chunked' up into completely disjointed, choppy sections of unrelated narratives of different family members over different generations. Each story is captivating but there is no arc that brings it together, or even helps the reader understand where it fits into the bigger whole. Unless I missed something big and obvious (which I don't think I did), the book was entirely unsatisfying. Which is even MORE disappointing considering the promise of the premise: a family with big giants and little runts, facing the world through the generations. Too bad. :(
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1.0 out of 5 stars unraveled to nothing ..... January 18, 2014
By Marly K
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I have never read a book that showed such promise at the beginning , to decompensate so rapidly at its end.
Very, very disappointing.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Vandal Love: A Novel September 23, 2013
By Kate
Format:Kindle Edition
Every writer has a particular rhythm to their words and phrasing. It took a few pages for my mind to fall into that rhythm and hear the song. Deni Bechard has created characters so outside my experience, yet familiar in their humanity and searches for meaning.
It is the the loneliness of his characters and their simple striving for all that has alluded them that makes you hope that they find their place in the world. It's as though if they succeed we may have a chance ourselves.
Unexpected joy of a read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Where's the sixth star? June 1, 2013
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I had not heard of this book before speaking to the author while he was researching his latest book, Empty Hands Open Arms. Wanting to know a little more about him, I got the Kindle download. I was gobsmacked. Vandal Love should be read twice - once to experience the language, and then maybe a second time for the story, a family odyssey of desire, adversity, and yearning to fit into a world in which you don't really belong.

My first reading was like drowning. Bechard will sweep you away on a flash flood of language, pull you under, tumble you, strip you bare. Occasionally you'll break surface just long enough enough to catch a breath. I haven't been borne away like that since reading C. S. Godshalk's magisterial Kalimantaan. I found myself forgetting why I was reading, or even that I was reading. I was just being pulled along, powerless to stop, until I was coughed up on shore where everything was the same but somehow strangely different.

The themes suggest that Bechard is a mystic with some affinity to the writer of the Cloud of Unknowning - but it is hopeless to compare a truly original artist - and I think that is what Deni Bechard is. After a few months I'll return to the book for the story line. And try to avoid being hypnotized again. More then.
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