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The Resource Undiscovered country, Lin Enger

Undiscovered country, Lin Enger

Label
Undiscovered country
Title
Undiscovered country
Statement of responsibility
Lin Enger
Creator
Subject
Genre
Language
eng
Summary
While hunting in the cold Minnesota woods, 17-year-old Jesse Matson's life is forever changed when he discovers his father, dead by a self-inflicted gunshot wound. But would easygoing Harold Matson really kill himself? If so, why? And just where was Jesse's uncle Clay--always jealous of Harold, and a bit too friendly with Jesse's mother--that cold afternoon?
Storyline
Tone
Writing style
Review
  • As in Jane Smiley's King Lear—inspired A Thousand Acres (1991), Enger sets this retelling of Hamlet in a rural community whose very ordinariness underscores the universality of Shakespeare's plot. Seventeen-year-old Jesse hears a shot during a hunting expedition, then discovers the devastated body of his dad, the town's mayor. It's officially a suicide, but Jesse suspects his father's overshadowed younger brother and wonders if his mother might have been complicit. Though any Hamlet recap pretty much requires a ghostly presence, Enger too often falls back upon eerie visions and dreams as shorthand for psychological distress, and some critical suspense is sacrificed by Jesse's first-person narration (he obviously survives to tell the tale, one of Enger's major departures from her source). That said, Enger tightens the emotional screws in plenty of other ways, through stark, visceral descriptions of Jesse's trauma (the father's gunshot wound leaves a "ragged lip of bone and flesh, surrounding a bowl that held a profane, incomprehensible matter"), and through the icebound Minnesota backdrop, an apt reflection of the characters' frigid interactions and the novel's pervasive sense of agonized suspension. -- Mattson, Jennifer (Reviewed 05-01-2008) (Booklist, vol 104, number 17, p73)
  • Adult/High School— In his most famous soliloquy, Hamlet speaks of that dread of something after death, "the undiscover'd country, from whose bourn no traveler returns," and this dread is realized beautifully in Enger's debut novel. While hunting deer in the northern Minnesota woods on a cold November afternoon, Harold Matson dies of a single grisly gunshot wound to the head. The local officials deem the death a suicide, but 17-year-old Jesse is convinced that his Uncle Clay is responsible for his father's death. The teen is visited by his father's ghost, has a girlfriend whose personal torment could give Ophelia a run for her money, and a bumbling/developmentally delayed relative (Clay's brother-in-law) who knows the truth about two murders for which Clay was responsible. But the elegantly written novel amounts to much more than just its allusions: Enger has taken a classic tale of betrayal, murder, justice, confusion, and forgiveness and created a story that will appeal to any teen who has experienced love and loss or grappled with dark family secrets. Readers might be left wondering what Hamlet would have been like had he survived. Less tragic perhaps, but he would have had an abundance of material for a career as a writer.—Jennifer Waters, Red Deer Public Library, Alberta, Canada --Jennifer Waters (Reviewed February 1, 2009) (School Library Journal, vol 55, issue 2, p130)
  • With flashes of prose as crisp and haunting as the frozen Minnesota setting, Enger’s debut opens 10 years after Jesse Matson’s father’s alleged suicide, as 17-year-old Jesse sits down to write his own version of events. While hunting with his father in the woods surrounding their hometown of Battlepoint, Minn., the young Jesse hears a shot and finds his father dead of an apparently self-inflicted gunshot wound. Adamant that his father could never take his own life, Jesse determines to uncover the truth. While his mother, Genevieve, retreats to her room and his younger brother, Magnus, looks to him for reassurance, Jesse becomes convinced that his uncle Clay actually killed his father. Despite a lack of evidence or support from law enforcement, Jesse hatches a plan to avenge his father’s death, bolstered by his deepening relationship with a girl who has plenty of problems of her own. Allusions to Hamlet and Hemingway’s In Our Time (Jesse reads both in school) do a little too much foreshadowing, but the landscape is beautifully rendered, and Jesse’s confusion is palpable. (July) --Staff (Reviewed March 10, 2008) (Publishers Weekly, vol 255, issue 10, p55)
  • In his debut novel, Enger, director of the MFA in creative writing program at Minnestoa State University, Moorhead, tells a modern-day Hamlet story set in rural northern Minnesota. Teenage Jesse's father, the mayor of Battlepoint, apparently committed suicide with his own hunting rifle. But Jesse suspects his Uncle Clay, who had more than one motive for murder. Is Jesse's suspicion simply his inability to accept his father's senseless act? Or is Clay really guilty—and how complicit is Jesse's mother? If Clay is guilty, what should he do about it? The obvious parallels with Shakespeare's play are even acknowledged by some of the characters, but Enger doesn't let this conceit overwhelm the story. He skillfully draws a portrait of small-town life and all its barely concealed secrets and effectively narrates Jesse's torment. One might wish for more ambiguity in the question of Clay's guilt, and the book's concluding chapters are a bit of a stretch, though thankfully they contain a little less bloodshed than the source material. Recommended for public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 3/15/08; Lin Enger is the brother of novelist Leif Enger.]—Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis --Christine DeZelar-Tiedman (Reviewed April 15, 2008) (Library Journal, vol 133, issue 7, p70)
  • A debut novel of murder, sexual intrigue and revenge that deliberately channels Hamlet.Jesse Matson tells his story in retrospect. Ten years before, his father, Harold, seemed to have killed himself while hunting with Jesse—at least suicide was ruled the official cause of death—but Jesse is suspicious. Shortly before this incident his father, mayor of the town of Battlepoint, Minn., and owner of the Valhalla restaurant, had made the controversial decision to use a budget surplus to provide low-income housing for workers, housing that was supposed to go on land currently occupied by a trailer park. This plan threatened the tenuous position of Harold's wastrel brother, Clay, the manager of a turkey-processing plant with connections to the trailer park. Clay has nursed a grudge against Harold, who stole away Genevieve, his high-school girlfriend, and later married her. Jesse suspects that Clay is behind Harold's death, a suspicion confirmed when Jesse sees the ghost of his father appearing across a frozen lake. The ghost echoes the advice Old Hamlet gives his son, " 'I didn't shoot myself…You have to believe me' " and " '[D]on't tell your mother.' " From here the plot is set in motion, with Jesse trying to find evidence that will incriminate Clay in the death of Harold. Jesse confides in Christine, a kind of Hispanic Ophelia, and also in his Horatio-like friend Charlie. At one point Jesse even confronts his mother in the attic sauna, a hothouse closet scene. Perhaps the biggest deviation from Shakespeare's play lies in the fact that Jesse lives to tell his story—and even Ophelia survives.A large part of the diversion here involves our anticipation of what Enger will do next to echo Hamlet. (Kirkus Reviews, May 15, 2008)
http://library.link/vocab/ext/novelist/bookUI
257550
Cataloging source
DLC
http://library.link/vocab/creatorName
Enger, Lin
Dewey number
  • 813/.54
  • 813.6
Index
no index present
Interest level
UG
Literary form
fiction
Reading level
5.7
http://library.link/vocab/resourcePreferred
True
Study program name
Accelerated Reader AR
http://library.link/vocab/subjectName
  • Fathers and sons
  • Family secrets
  • Forgiveness
  • Revenge
  • Domestic fiction
  • Family secrets
  • Fathers and sons
  • Forgiveness
  • Revenge
  • Minnesota
  • Minnesota
Label
Undiscovered country, Lin Enger
Instantiates
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
668138
Dimensions
22 cm
Edition
First edition.
Extent
308 pages
Isbn
9780316006941
Lccn
2007030138
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9780316006941
  • (OCoLC)156892045
Label
Undiscovered country, Lin Enger
Publication
Carrier category
volume
Carrier category code
  • nc
Carrier MARC source
rdacarrier
Content category
text
Content type code
  • txt
Content type MARC source
rdacontent
Control code
668138
Dimensions
22 cm
Edition
First edition.
Extent
308 pages
Isbn
9780316006941
Lccn
2007030138
Media category
unmediated
Media MARC source
rdamedia
Media type code
  • n
System control number
  • (Sirsi) i9780316006941
  • (OCoLC)156892045

Library Locations

    • Central LibraryBorrow it
      710 W. Cesar Chavez St, Austin, TX, 78701, US
      30.2713021 -97.7460168
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