You're probably familiar with Annie Proulx's stories, if not her name--after all, she wrote the short story that Brokeback Mountain was based on. She wrote (and won a Pulitzer for) the novel The Shipping News, which has also been made into a movie. Now, before I get into ACCORDIAN CRIMES, I want to say a word or two about The Shipping News, which I read and sort of liked, or didn't really like, or appreciated certain aspects of at certain times, but mostly found depressing in the heaviest, most lead-weight-upon-my-shoulders sort of way, and ultimately would say that Proulx's writing knocked my socks off but goodness, could she please lighten up a little.
ACCORDIAN CRIMES, published something like nine years after The Shipping News (there were other books published in between, but I've yet to read them), took all my favorite aspects of Shipping, polished them up, gave them a fantastic story to tell and let 'em loose.
Following a little green two-row accordian through its arrival in America, in the hands of of its Italian maker, and through all of its successive owners, Proulx offers a lovely framework for telling of America's beginnings through the polkas, waltzes and zydeco tunes of German, Polish, Mexican, Norwegian, Cajun, French, Irish (and more) immigrants. For each culture, the accordian is a rememberance of home, a way of connecting briefly with whatever land the immigrants have left behind.
There are two things about ACCORDIAN CRIMES that stand out to me most:
1) The racism, the blatant hostility that arises between the immigrants (the Germans hate the Irish, the Americans hate everybody and everybody hates the blacks).
2) The wildly creative ways that Proulx comes up with to kill off characters. I began to get a little excited toward the end of each chapter to see how she'd knock off this guy.
Okay, well, really there are 3) things. Proulx's Pulitzer-worthy prose. I loved that.