E. Annie Proulx's Accordion Crimes is a masterpiece of storytelling that spans a century and a continent. Proulx brings the immigrant experience in America to life through the eyes of the descendants of Mexicans, Poles, Africans, Irish-Scots, Franco-Canadians and many others, all linked by their successive ownership of a simple green accordion. The music they make is their last link with the past -- voice for their fantasies, sorrows and exuberance. Proulx's prodigious knowledge, unforgettable characters and radiant language make Accordion Crimes a stunning novel, exhilarating in its scope and originality.
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Proulx found fertile, if rocky, soil for her first two novels ( Postcards and The Shipping News) in the far northeastern corner of North America. In Accordion Crimes she ranges much further afield. The novel follows an accordion from the hands of its maker in Sicily in 1890 until it is flattened by a truck in Florida in 1996. In the intervening century it passes through the hands of a host of unlucky owners and their kin: Abelardo Relampago, who dies from the bite of a poisonous spider; Dolor Gagnon, decapitated by his own chain saw; Silvano, cut down in the jungles of Venezuela by an Indian's arrow.From the Publisher:
Accordion Crimes traces the long odyssey of a button accordion, an instrument made by a Sicilian who immigrates to New Orleans in 1891. Imprisoned in a round-up of Italian suspects after the political murder of the chief of police, the accordion maker is lynched, and his accordion falls into the hands of Apollo, a black steamboat screwman. The instrument begins its long, erratic voyage through 20th-century America, passing through the hands of the descendants of slaves, immigrants and their children, some of whom learn that the cost of becoming American is to surrender the private definition of self.
Accordion Crimes is alive with vividly drawn characters who sometimes meet violent, strange ends, and who, at other times, succeed in a hard world. Filled with indelible images, Proulx's latest novel is charged with sardonic wit and is, at different turns, darkly hilarious and heartbreakingly sad. What we see as the accordion weakens and disintegrates is a haunting and ominous sense of what is America.
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