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Beautiful, brutal and raw - I cannot praise Michael Crummey’s The Innocents highly enough. Set in an inhospitable isolated area of the Newfoundland coast in the nineteenth-century, it’s a remarkable Garden of Eden, Babes in the Wood masterwork in which we witness age-old nature-nurture conflicts ebb and flow as we observe two siblings living on the edge, in every sense. Through their poignant passages to adulthood we see humanity at its most elemental, and we’re compelled to consider what it means to become a human adult Siblings Evered and Ada have survived the loss of their mother and baby sister Martha, though Ada still hears and speaks to Martha. Now their father has died and there’s no one but them to remove his body from their home. No one but each other to ensure they survive. Equipped with very limited knowledge of the world, and facing perilous poverty, the siblings fish and cure their catch, as their father used to, but the catches come either in unmanageable excess, or not at all. They are never far from the ravages of starvation, or wild storms. As time passes, Ada and Evered derive secret knowledge from their bodies, as well as from infrequent interactions with outsiders. Once a year, men come to collect the sibling’s paltry cured fish, dropping off scant supplies as payment. Then there are chance visits from seamen surprised to find them living alone in this precarious way. The siblings assimilate new knowledge from these unexpected visitors – knowledge of brewing, hunting, history and human relationships - who in turn leave indelible marks on Ada and Evered, leaving them changed to the extent that “each in their own way was beginning to doubt their pairing was requisite to what they might want from life.” Inspired by a story the author found in local archives, this is an incredibly haunting novel – the language powerfully pure, the story uniquely thought-provoking.
For twelve generations, the inhabitants of a remote island in Newfoundland have lived and died together. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, they are facing resettlement. They have each been offered a generous compensation package to leave the island for good. There's just one proviso: everyone must go. Gradually, all of the residents surrender to the inevitable. All of the residents, that is, but one: old Moses Sweetland. Motivated in part by a sense of history and belonging, and concerned that his somewhat eccentric great-nephew will wilt on the mainland, Moses resists the coercion of family and friends in order to hold onto the only place he's ever called home. As his options dwindle, Moses Sweetland concocts a scheme to remain the island's only living resident. Cut off from the outside world, with the food supply diminishing and weather shredding away the last evidence of human habitation, Sweetland finds himself, finally, in the company of ghosts . . . Written with incomparable emotional power and depth, Sweetland is a story about loyalty and courage, about the human will to persist even when all hope seems lost.
An intricate family saga and love story spanning two centuries, Galore is a portrait of the improbable medieval world that was rural Newfoundland, a place almost too harrowing and extravagant to be real. Remote and isolated, exposed to savage extremes of climate and fate, the people of Paradise Deep persist in a realm where the line between the everyday and the otherworldly is impossible to distinguish. Propelled by the disputes and alliances, grievances and trade-offs that bind the Sellers and Devine families through generations, Galore is alive with singular characters, and an uncommon insight into the complexities of human nature. Sprawling and intimate, stark and fantastical, Galore is a novel about the power of stories to shape and sustain us. This is Michael Crummey's most ambitious and accomplished work to date.
Shortlisted for the 1999 Milton Acorn Memorial People's Poetry PrizeIn Hard Light Michael Crummey retells and reinvents his father's stories of outport Newfoundland and the Labrador fishery of a half century ago. Speaking through generations of storytellers, he conjures a world of hard toil and heavy weather, shot through with stoicism, grim humour, endurance, and love. This is writing that is supple and charged with intensity, language that vivifies - electrifies - whoever and whatever it describes. "e;Michael Crummey's lucid, dexterous writing shies away from nothing, gives us the concrete particulars of daily life, the burials and butcheries, the night-time thoughts. He knows this world from the inside."e; - John Steffler