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The Shipping News is a Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award-winning novel by E. Annie Proulx which was published in 1993. It was adapted into a film of the same name, released in 2001.

Plot summary

The story centers on Quoyle, a newspaper worker from upstate New Yorkmarker whose father had emigrated from Newfoundlandmarker. Shortly after the suicide of his parents, Quoyle's unfaithful and abusive wife Petal and her lover leave town. Days later, she sells their daughters to a 'black market adoption agency' for the sum of $6,000. Soon thereafter, Petal and her lover are killed in a car accident; the young girls are located by police and returned to Quoyle. Despite the safe return of his daughters, Quoyle's life is collapsing and his paternal aunt, Agnis Hamm, convinces him to return to their ancestral home of Newfoundland for a new beginning. This ancestral home is situated on Quoyle's Point.

He obtains work as a car-accident reporter for the Gammy Bird, local newspaper of the town of Killick-Claw. The Gammy Bird's editor also asks him to document the shipping news, arrivals and departures from the local port, which soon grows into Quoyle's signature articles on boats of interest in the harbour.

Quoyle gradually makes friends within the community, learns about his own troubled family background, and begins a relationship with a local woman, Wavey. Quoyle's growth in confidence and emotional strength, as well as his ability to be comfortable in a loving relationship, become the main focus for the book. A series of deep and disturbing secrets about his ancestors emerge in strange ways.

Ashley's influence

In her acknowledgements Proulx states, "And without the inspiration of Clifford W. Ashley's wonderful 1944 work, The Ashley Book of Knots, which I had the good fortune to find at a yard sale for a quarter, this book would have remained just a thread of an idea." Ashley's illustrations and quotes are used at chapter headings throughout the book. Some of the names in the book are taken from knots, for instance Killick hitch and coil.

Awards and nominations


Literary critic and author G. Leopold Perurena compared the novel's style and plot to "a syphilitic pus-filled sore being opened time after time" and "The Gilmore Girls if they were filibustering a Senate Finance Committee bill".

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