The Native

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

The novels in David Plante’s Francoeur-family trilogy explore the relationships between seven brothers in a tightly knit Rhode Island family and the emotions that bind them to their French Canadian past. In THE NATIVE, Plante continues to probe the essential mysteries of human isolation and love.

In marrying a blonde Texan, Jenny, Philip Francoeur tries to break away from the darkness and suffering intensity of his immigrant parents and the morbid “Canuck” Catholicism that seemed to have its roots in the Canadian woods. His marriage is happy--a gift--but the affinity that develops between his mother, Reena, and his only daughter, Antoinette, not only threatens Antoinette’s stability but also reawakens in Philip complex questions about his identity that he long before had put to rest. Jenny--generous, optimistic, and Protestant--is an outsider in the family, a “totally soulless person,” they suspect. As it turns out, however, it is her suffering that enables father and daughter to acknowledge each other and escape despair.

Plante’s prose is, as in his other books, both resonant and precise. Unlike many writers whose terseness seems designed to describe a world of surfaces alone, Plante uses language to evoke a human community where the past is always on the verge of engulfing the present and where understatement is at once a symptom of spiritual malaise and a mark of grace. The title of THE NATIVE is intentionally ambiguous. The reader is reminded that assimilation is less a goal than a process and is seldom complete.