Friday, October 17, 2014

Sweetland by Michael Crummey

I'm a sucker for a strong sense of place, and the Newfoundland coastal island Sweetland is practically a character in Michael Crummey's novel of the same name. Then there's the human central character, Moses Sweetland, so vividly real.

Crummey's language is poetic and spare. Evocative Newfoundland terms like droke, skreel, pook, duckish and tuckamore are sprinkled throughout. (There's a dictionary online here.) I adored Sweetland from the very first page, where Moses is stranded by fog:

"Slept in the wheelhouse under an old blanket with a pair of coveralls rolled up as a pillow. The mauze lifted a little at first light and he thought he might be able to pick his way home. Had the island in sight when the mist muffled in, so thick he couldn't see ten feet past the bow."

The government wants to halt all services to the island of Sweetland, so they've offered a generous resettlement fee to each of the few remaining residents. The catch is that everyone must agree. Moses is the only holdout.

Sweetland is a beautifully poignant novel about important things like our connections to one another  and to home.

Readlike: The Winter Vault (Anne Michaels).

Crummey is the author of many other fine works as well, including one of my favourite poetry collections, Under the Keel, and the novel Galore. Sweetland is a strong contender on the current shortlist for the Governor General's Award.

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