03 May 2011
Book Review: Galore
Author: Michael Crummey
Publisher/Year: Other Press / 2011
Source/Format: NetGalley / eBook
Buy | Borrow | Accept | Avoid
Synopsis from Publisher
When a whale beaches itself on the shore of the remote coastal town of Paradise Deep, the last thing any of the townspeople expect to find inside it is a man, silent and reeking of fish, but remarkably alive. The discovery of this mysterious person, soon christened Judah, sets the town scrambling for answers as its most prominent citizens weigh in on whether he is man or beast, blessing or curse, miracle or demon.
Though Judah is a shocking addition, the town of Paradise Deep is already full of unusual characters. King-me Sellers, self-appointed patriarch, has it in for an inscrutable woman known only as Devine's Widow, with whom he has a decades-old feud. Her granddaughter, Mary Tryphena, is just a child when Judah washes ashore, but finds herself tied to him all her life in ways she never expects. Galore is the story of the saga that develops between these families, full of bitterness and love, spanning two centuries.
With Paradise Deep, award-winning novelist Michael Crummey imagines a realm where the line between the everyday and the otherworldly is impossible to discern. Sprawling and intimate, stark and fantastical, Galore is a novel about the power of stories to shape and sustain us.
A Bit of a Ramble
Typically my summaries are extremely short in order to avoid any possibility of plot spoilage. In this case, however, I do not even know where to begin, and the three paragraph synopsis does not even come close to revealing the epic plot. The story is huge, spanning over 200 years and encompassing multiple (6?) generations. The character list goes on and on; figuring out who was who and who did what to whom and when and why and to what effect certainly kept me engrossed - and mildly frustrated - with the story.
Michael Crummey's epic family saga, Galore, brims over with richness; from the distinct characters to the unusual events to the unique setting, the story is a sharp juxtaposition of harsh frontier and magical realism. While the scope and depth create an epic feel, from time to time, I did find myself wishing things would move along.
At its most basic, this is the story of the Sellers and the Devines, two rival families in a fishing village in Newfoundland. The interpersonal and public relationships between the two families, formed by their respective patriarch and monarch, focus the plot; however, the cast of characters and the plot lines go far beyond these two families.
The story is not chronological. Actually, there were many times while reading I found myself curious as to the when. The only explanation I can give for the out-of-order relating of events, the giant gaps of time, and the weaving back and forth through time, is that you find out what you need to know when you need to know it. This doesn't exactly make reading the novel very comfortable (or easy for that matter) but it certainly does make reading interesting.
My only real complaint is that I felt things a bit too mellow from time to time. Without a central, driving conflict, the action lacked a cause and effect intensity, and I found it easy to put the book aside for long periods of time. When I did pick it up, I could read for hours, but there was no real sense of urgency, no feeling of "what will happen next?" to encourage me to get to the end.
Most of the story deals with reality, everyday, if not exactly universally typical, events and people; however, there is a mystical air flowing throughout - a man emerging from the belly of a whale, witchy women, ghosts, superstition, and curses. The tinge of 'magical realism' colors the story just enough for a bit of the mystical, and this mystical quality really impressed me in its contradiction to the typically barren, always harsh, environment in which the story takes place.
When I think of fantasy, of magic, I think of lush forests and golden-tinged palaces, not a desolate and impotent landscape. The combination created a melancholy, esoteric tone and feel which I reveled in. So despite my occasional wish for a bit more purpose and action, I overall enjoyed the novel, and find it one to be savored if not devoured.
Thank you to Nicole for introducing me to this book!
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