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 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 flees from modern society into spiritual quests.
In assured and mystically powerful prose, Deni Ellis Béchard tells a wide-ranging, spellbinding story of a family trying to create and identity in an unwelcoming landscape. Vandal Love is a breathtaking literary debut about the power of love to create and destroy.
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Praise and Prizes
“Deni Ellis Béchard has reinvented 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.”
“Masterful . . . A novel you’ll want to read slowly, savoring prose that’s both lyrical and gritty, able to evoke big emotions with exquisite intimacy. . . . If this unusual story—like its characters—occasionally seems to wander without a clear destination, the final stunningly poignant pages prove that Deni Ellis Béchard knew exactly where he was taking us all along.”
“Highly original, poetically charged, compelling, beautifully crafted, visceral, sonorous, visionary. . . . Deni Ellis 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.”
“A strange and beautiful first novel . . . built sentence by luminous, surprising sentence.”
“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.”
“Moving and entertaining . . . This fiction debut, unfolding in punchy prose, recalls Márquez with a French-Canadian twist.”
“Deni Ellis Béchard’s haunting first novel follows three generations that can’t find a home in this world. . . . Béchard has a voice and a vision all his own, both tough-minded and passionately emotional. . . . The author clearly has ambitions as big as his talent.”
“A lyrical, generational story of a family haunted by God who is not above, but is nature. 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 Deni Ellis Béchard’s first novel.”
“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, García Márquez, or Steinbeck.”