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 Hervé'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.
— Karen Holt