No Man's Land
A sprawling saga set in the Canadian wilderness of the late 19th century, about a teenaged girl named Davey, a charismatic fraudster, and the unbearable weight of fate.
In this powerful, panoramic novel set in the late 1890s, in a sliver of rugged British Columbia wilderness, a fourteen-year-old girl named Davey - too young to be given a chance at creating her own life - finds herself raised by a group of eccentric, hostile misfits who rescued her as an infant on a bloody battlefield. She roams the countryside with them, led by Reverend Brown, a charismatic false prophet, hosting revivals for unsuspecting believers while lingering on the cusp of unimaginable events.
Davey tries to locate a semblance of peace in this harrowing, beautiful place, but what she finds instead is an astonishing panoply of falsehoods and depravity, a vicious world composed of murderers, thieves, and dancing bears. And in this unforgiving landscape of craggy beauty and singular resoluteness, she wages a fight for truth while traversing the delicate line between destiny and fate as she comes to understand the role Reverend Brown plays in her life.
No Man's Land is part classic coming-of-age story, part unwavering portrait of the bloody price of power, a raw and bold novel about the search for family, and a grand tale about an education in the pull of predestination and the responsibility of free will. Haunting on every page, filled with sorrow and awe, and stunning in the tonality of its vision, No Man's Land is an unflinching meditation on the legacy of violence, its senseless destructiveness, and the fearless dignity and tenderness required to rise above it.
No Man's Land combines the baroque violence of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian with the reverent prose of Annie Dillard's A Pilgrim at Tinker Creek. We meet a cursed coal-miner, a debauched preacher, a terse Mountie, a silent clown, and the gimlet-eyed 14-year-old girl who brings them all together. This extraordinary first novel reclaims the Canadian Northwestern from its childish tropes - the noble Mountie who gets the girl as well as his man - and instead affords the reader a profoundly adult lens on colonialist violence and violent misogyny in a landscape of soaring, searing beauty. -Annabel Lyon, author of Consent
John Vigna's luminous new novel reminds, in turns, of Dostoevsky, Faulkner, Jim Harrison, John Williams, and Larry McMurtry: a deeply moving philosophic exploration of free will and the human spirit in the shape of a fierce, wild, violent Western. No Man's Land, and its protagonist, Davey, will stick with me for a long, long time. -Christian Kiefer, author of Phantoms
No Man's Land is a lush, breathtaking frontier epic told with a grandeur and gravitas we find in the best of John Steinbeck and Wallace Stegner. John Vigna writes the land the way the old poets played the lyre. A masterpiece. -Claire Vaye Watkins, author of I Love You But I've Chosen Darkness
Vigna's rugged and inventive debut novel brings the drama, violence and lyric intensity of the King James Bible to the cold, merciless climes of the Canadian wilderness . .. Vigna is a master craftsman. His language feels ancient, and he paints an unforgiving landscape with great detail and majesty. Though Reverend Brown is no prophet, readers will find in Vigna a writer worth paying close attention to. -Publishers Weekly
There's danger everywhere in John Vigna's No Man's Land. Characters are threatened by the rugged Canadian landscape, threatened by others in their troupe, threatened by their own turbulent motivations, threatened even by the past. In Vigna's world, what goes around comes around. For better or worse. Vigna writes about the past with such ease, it's as if he has the power to time travel to the nineteenth century to retrieve the speech, references, and beliefs of the era. No Man's Land is a novel of grand themes: the collision of faith and fallibility, of facts and falsehood. Can you refuse the inheritance in your blood? It's a wild, unpredictable saga.
-Ian Williams, author of Reproduction (Winner of the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prize)