Vandal Love

One part Jack Kerouac, one part William Faulkner, D.Y. Béchard has shaped Vandal Love into a heartfelt and sweeping narrative that follows the quest of damaged personalities who seek to become whole again. A searching and mystical novel imbued with sensitivity and grace, it has thrust Béchard centre stage as an up-and-coming literary contender and a new voice to be reckoned with.

— The Hour

In Vandal Love D.Y. Béchard has re-invented 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.

— Robert Olen Butler, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A Good Scent From                  A Strange Mountain

Vandal Love is a lyrical, generational story of a family haunted by God who is not above, but is nature–who is in the chromosomes that make for big and small, strong and weak, who is inside exquisitely cruel and hard journeys, who is the squeak of snow under boots in Québec, or a mosquitoed sweat on a bare, muscled boxer in Louisiana. 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 Béchard’s first novel.

— Dagoberto Gilb, Author of The Magic of Blood and Woodcuts of Women

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, Garcia Marquez, or Steinbeck.

— Katherine Min, author of Secondhand World

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 Herve’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.

— O, The Oprah Magazine 

This dreamlike novel spans five generations in the lives of a French-Canadian family of misfits….a strange and beautiful first novel…built sentence by luminous, surprising sentence.

— Brigitte Frase, Minneapolis Star Tribune 

In this moving and entertaining debut, the Hervé family suffers from a genetic quirk—or divine malady—that results in their children growing into towering brutes or sickly runts. In mid-20th–century Quebec, the hard drinking patriarch Hervé Hervé reduces his family by lending—or simply giving away—the runts, while keeping the giants for labor. Set both in Canada and several American states, from Maine to New Mexico, and spanning more than half a century, the novel divides itself between the isolated introspective pugilist giant Jude, and François, a sociable, religious runt. Though the two Hervé brothers are very different in appearance, they both feel the need to strike out alone, creating their own families and identities in transcontinental voyages. This is both a road novel and a voyage through time, with each of the book’s two parts covering the lifetimes of several family members in an examination of the Hervé lineage. Ruminations abound on sex, violence, and the bonds between people. Though Béchard (Cures for Hunger, a memoir) has a journalism background, this fiction debut, unfolding in punchy prose, recalls Márquez with a French-Canadian twist.

— Publishers Weekly (STARRED)

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.

— Kirkus (STARRED)

Teens will relate to the resultant quest for identity experienced by the youth of each generation. Béchard’s expressive prose easily lures readers into the successive stories. There is a sense of mystical destiny that evokes the novels of Alice Hoffman or Isabelle Allende. Characters find redemption with unlikely people in unusual settings, but never quite ease their loneliness until family bonds are reconnected. This is a good recommendation for readers who enjoy complex stories with dark undertones, such as Ursula Hegi’s Stones from the River.

— School Library Journal blog

A family mythos reminiscent of Faulkner.

— Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist

A mystically powerful novel about the Quebec diaspora and creating identity in an unwelcoming landscape… It’s hard to believe that this skilled, often deeply moving novel is Béchard’s first—readers will certainly be hoping for great things from this imaginative, original, elegantly lyrical but muscular new voice.

— Norah Piehl, BookBrowse, editor’s choice

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.

— Loung Ung, author of Lucky Child and First They Killed My Father

D.Y. Béchard tells a grand, sprawling story that spans five generations in the life of a Quebec family. Béchard’s writing at its strongest flows in sonorous passages, it evokes memorable landscapes, natural and urban, and examines the enduring qualities of a family separated by both time and distance. . . . Béchard’s manic imagination contains echoes of the magic realism of the South American master Gabriel García Márquez or, closer to home, the tall tales of western Canadian literary heavyweight Robert Kroetsch Writing in English.

— Winnipeg Free Press

D.Y. Béchard surpasses Kerouac in his consciousness of the French as part of a larger people, how their struggle is socially and politically situated rather than strictly personal . . . Vandal Love seems like a trans‑generational On the Road, which, also infused with a kind of inherited defeatism, was the perfect Americanized expression of an unexamined Existentialism, the ultimate Beat utterance.

— The Globe and Mail

Over a vast yet beautifully coherent canvas, Vandal Love follows the panic and privilege of human longing through an amazing coalition of loneliness and adaptation. These characters – injured but unbowed, broken but enduring – introduce a gifted new writer. Béchard’s surety of voice and confident narrative span declare a first rate novel and an eloquent debut.

— Commonwealth Judging Panel, 2007

Its themes are loss and displacement, its style lyrical and ambition considerable. It makes, in other words, quite a first impression. . . . A young writer needs luck to have this kind of material at hand and guts to pursue it. . . . it has the feel of a novel that’s been a lifetime in the making . . . There’s a tinge of Faulkner’s defeated South in Vandal Love, too–a lingering regret that things did not turn out better.

— Montreal Gazette

Although Vandal Love is a first novel, it reads as smoothly as if [Béchard] had a library to his name – mature, lyrical, tactile and at times simple, cruel and sweet… No doubt, the giant steps this young writer has taken will set him far ahead on his literary path.”

— Calgary Herald

The novel beautifully evokes that eternal theme of the outsider, the outcast, the freak, in the search to find a place, albeit more of the soul than of the corporeal, that can be called home.

— Quill and Quire

Béchard is an ambitious and skillful storyteller. His specialty is finding words to describe longing. . . . [Vandal Love is] about blood: what our veins inherit, and how it both holds and haunts us.

— The Georgia Straight

Vandal Love is a point of reference for authors who set out to tackle the challenges of writing a multigenerational story. . . He shines in his ability not only to bridge the generation gap but to connect the two “books” . . .  The effect is near seamless, the unfolding of events written with surgical precision. It would be a shame if Béchard is not recognized for the new voice and talent that he is.

— Vancouver Sun

The author weaves his lyrical and image-rich prose through the pages of Vandal Love with the audacity of a virtuoso. . . Béchard seems poised to walk among the giants of the Canadian literary scene.

— Now

Highly original, poetically charged, compelling, beautifully crafted, visceral, sonorous, visionary . . . 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.

— Off The Shelf

Lyrical, compelling, moving (both figuratively and literally) the characters in Vandal Love drift and converge and procreate and take flight like birds on the wing. . . The search for God, for meaning, is irrevocable linked to the dispossessed people of Béchard’s imagination, and Vandal Love demonstrates the interconnectedness of spiritual and physical longing for “home.” . . . Vandal Love is not unlike a rare and mysterious bird that settles briefly and then flees. . . its impression resonates long after the bird has flown.

— Edmonton Journal

Vandal Love is a generational novel with a difference. It has a magical touch that reminded me of nothing less than Antonine Maillet’s classic, Pélagie: The Return to Acadie . . . This is a novel that will sweep you away with its scope, energy and ambition. Only time will tell if Vandal Love is remembered in a decade. My guess is yes.

— Sun-Times

A layered contemporary fairytale, mesmerizing and powerful . . . Vandal Love is a moving novel about universal longings.

— Montréal Review of Books

Béchard’s improvised, riff-heavy narrative resembles Salman Rushdie more than Gabriel Garcia Marquez, as it plays with the idea of exile as both a genetic inheritance and a spiritual purgatory. Disconnected from their heritage and scattered across the continent, the Hervés are nevertheless haunted by the same spiritual vacuum.

— National Post

Vandal Love is a spectacular beginning to D.Y. Béchard’s writing career . . . There’s something of the storytelling style of E. Annie Proulx here: brutal yet tender, simple yet incredibly moving.

— Calgary Herald