Monday, August 30, 2010

Crummey, Not So Much

The day that my boyfriend left for his deployment I consoled myself by going to the library and grabbing whatever drew even the most remote interest.  One of the books I checked out in the midst of this frenzy was Galore by Michael Crummey.  I own two of Michael Crummey's other books, The Wreckage and The River Thieves, but have never gotten around to actually reading them.  It's not a case of buyer's remorse, but when I buy books I usually take my sweet time before I actually get around to reading them.  Whereas with books that I borrow, I feel motivated to finish them quickly.  

With Galore I didn't really need extra motivation in order to wile away the hours reading it.  The story takes place in a small fishing village named Paradise Deep (in case you were wondering the name is a double entendre) where superstition, folk tales and witchcraft are incredibly influential.  Two families intertwined by marriage and mutual dislike form the heart of the story, one headed by the local "witch" Devine's Widow and the other ruled by King-me Sellers.  As the story begins, a mute man is discovered in the belly of a beached whale and taken in by the Devine family who house him in the shed to combat his unique smell.  This story, and unfortunately the fish stench, is passed down through the generations along with other tales surrounding these two controversial families.  

What interests me as a reader are the changes that take place in the village over the course of generations.  At the beginning of the book, stories and folk traditions hold the most sway over the small community.  As competing religions take hold, a doctor arrives from the United States and people become more politically active, the influence of the old ways lessens.  The process is gradual and there is a lot of suspicion with regard to progress within the community and the tension between different forces makes the story fascinating.  For me, the focus the author gives to the character of Dr. Newman, an outsider looking for adventure, is particularly riveting.  The difficulties associated with conducting medicine in rural Newfoundland hadn't really occurred to me besides the obvious transportation issues.  Even when a patient comes to his office, the person doesn't have the education or the language skills to properly describe what's wrong with them and there is a lot of guessing involved.  Eventually the doctor does adapt with the help of people in the village who take him under their collective wing.  

Without going into more detail and giving away the story I will say that Galore has been one of my favourite reads this year and I will most definitely take on his other books in the near future.  Though I don't like the fact that I am recommending two books set in Newfoundland so close together, I thought it was okay given the fact that Alligator by Lisa Moore is completely different from Galore.  They bear no resemblance to one another besides both being set in Newfoundland and both show the depth and variety of literature from that province.  Despite the success I have had with books from Newfoundland authors lately, I always try to vary the authors I read so I will take a break from them, unless compelled by another library frenzy.  It's happened before and will again.   

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