It's hard to describe how successful this novel is, given it is a novel about trees, their history and their demise.
Barkskins is Proulx' s latest novel and as with all her others, she is meticulous in her research and in her writing, leaving us with no doubt once again of her enormous talent.
This is a wide sweeping novel which begins in 1600 when Charles Duquet and Rene Sel sail to New France, Canada, in search of better lives. Charles Duke (formerly Duquet) settles into the life of an axe man and soon establishes a huge lumber company. Rene Sel marries a Mi'kmaq woman whose tribe lives in the forests of Canada and are renown as healers and hunters. They are guardians the forest.
The Duke family throughout generations seek out the biggest native forests, buy them and demolish them. Fist in Canada, USA and then Asia and South America. They have total disregard for ecology, environment and the consequences of the devastation they bring.
Meanwhile the Sel family traces it's demise in parallel to the demise of the forest they have lived in for generations and which disappearing. The destiny of both families are intertwined.
The story ends in 2013, with a bit of hope and redemption for both families and hope in the possibility of regenerating some of the forests consumed by the appetite of consumerism.