Vandal Love

Publisher: Anchor Canada
An astonishing novel, Vandal Love follows generations of a unique French-Canadian family across North America, and through the twentieth century, as they struggle to find their place in the world.

A family curse – a genetic trick resulting from centuries of hardship – causes the Hervé children to be born either giants or runts. Book I of Vandal Love follows the giants’ line, exploring Jude Hervé’s career as a boxer in Georgia and Louisiana in the 1960s, his escape from that brutal life alone with his baby daughter Isa, and her eventual decision to enter into a strange, chaste marriage with a much older man.

Book II traces a different kind of life entirely, as the runts of the family discover that their power lies in a kind of unifying love. François searches for years for his missing father; his own son, Harvey, flees from modern society into spiritual quests. But none of the Hervés can abandon their longing for a place where they might find others like themselves.

In assured and almost mystically powerful prose, D.Y. Béchard tells a wide-ranging, spellbinding story of a family trying to create an identity in an unwelcoming North America. Political, poetic, and philosophically searching, and imbued throughout with a deep sensitivity to the physical world, Vandal Love is a breathtaking literary debut about the power of love to create and destroy – in our lives, and in our history.

From the Hardcover edition.


part one

Even when Jude was a boy, his arms and legs bulged, his neck corded, his muscled gut humped beneath his chest. On the steep fields above the road, above the river so wide they called it la mer, he worked in clothes the colour of dirt, harder and faster than...
Read More


“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 Writers’ Prize for Best First Book, jury comments

Vandal Love is a generational novel with a difference. It has a magical touch. . . . Complex, perplexing, but lyrical, 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.” —The Sun Times (Owen Sound)

“Béchard is an ambitious and skillful storyteller. His specialty is finding words to describe longing. . . . The cover blurb for Vandal Love says it is about the power of love, but I thought is was more about blood: what our veins inherit, and how it both holds and haunts us.” —Georgia Straight

“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.

"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

“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 (Interview, 28 Jan 2006)

"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."
—Michel Basilieres, The Globe and Mail

"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."
—Margaret MacPherson, Edmonton Journal

"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."
—Laurel Smith, Quill and Quire

"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."
—M.J. Stone, The Hour

"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."
—Tyler Bradley, 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."
—Dan Naccarato, Now

"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 Garcia Marquez or, closer to home, the tall tales of western Canadian literary heavyweight Robert Kroetsch Writing in English "
–Glenn Bergen, Winnipeg Free Press

"Readers who find this sort of thing poetically true no doubt also love the more fanciful narratives of Michael Ondaatje and Jane Urquhart ."
Philip Marchand, Toronto Star

"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 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."
–Joel Yanofsky, Montreal Gazette

"Béchard's improvised, riff-heavy narrative resembles Salman Rushdie more than Gabria 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 Herv és are nevertheless haunted by the same spritual vacuum."
–Kevin Wong, National Post

"Vandal Love is a spectacular beginning to D.Y. Béchard's writing career...There's something of the storytelling of E. Annie Proulx here; brutal yet tender, simple yet incredibly moving."
–Claire Stirling, Calgary Herald

“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 Quebec, 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 Bechard's first novel.”
—Dagoberto Gilb, Author of The Magic of Blood and Woodcuts of Women

From the Hardcover edition.