I don't know how I can say this any more clearly: BUY THIS BOOK!
Michael Crummey who is a friend and a writer I admire, I'll admit that off the bat, has done a remarkable job with this book.
Galore is a book inspired by the mythology of Newfoundland. I'm going to quote from the Globe and Mail review here because I simply can't say it any better:
"The novel opens with a group of people in the fictional Newfoundland outport of Paradise Deep, slaughtering a whale that has inexplicably beached itself. Young Mary Tryphena watches as the body of a man, pale and stinking, is cut from the whale's belly. Her grandmother, an old crone named Devine's Widow, defies the town oligarch, King-me Sellers, and has the man carried up the hill to prepare him for a proper burial.
"The man, it turns out, is in fact alive, though he cannot speak a word. In the spirit of compromise and illiteracy, he is given the name of Judah. He never does utter a word, and he never loses his stench, but his presence ignites a spark in Paradise Deep that sustains the story for multiple generations.
"Crummey's prose is flawless. He has a way with the colloquial that escapes many writers, an ability to make the idiosyncrasies of local speech an asset in creating an image in the reader's mind.
''They'd scaled the whale's back to drive a stake with a maul, hoping to strike some vital organ, and managed to set it bleeding steadily. They saw nothing for it then but to wait for God to do His work and they sat with their splitting knives and fish prongs, with their dip nets and axes and saws and barrels. The wind was razor sharp and Mary Tryphena lost all feeling in her hands and feet and her little arse went dunch on the sand while the whale expired in imperceptible increments. Jabez Trim waded out at intervals to prod at the fat saucer of an eye and report back on God's progress.''
The book, while being about the stories Newfoundlanders have told for generations, is also about those very generations of Newfoundlanders, the story-tellers, the priests, the mummers, the fishermen and sealers, the women who healed with herbs and midwifed, the merchants, the labor organizers, the fools and the visionaries.
The epigrams are from Gabriel Garcia Marquez - The invincible power that has moved the world is unrequited, not happy, love -- and the Psalms -- I will bring my people again from the depths of the sea. And certainly both influences are present in this book. Unrequited love does circle the waters here, with all the power and depth of the sea. For me, it worked, as did the moments of magical realism. For example, I had no trouble suspending disbelief when a dead man simply would not stop living with his wife.
But most of all, I was impressed with the way Crummey handles mystery and time. There are mysterious appearances, such as Judah's, and mysterious disappearances -- or in some cases, non-disappearances. The narrative ebbs and flows, but in circles, each tale overlapping like the generations of Devines (and the name is chosen deliberately, of course) and Sellers (again, deliberate name choice). There is a timeless, non-linear quality to the tale which I think is best exemplified in this lovely bit of prose:
"--Now the once, she said.
It was the oddest expression he'd learned on the shore. Now the once. The present twined with the past to mean soon, a bit later, some unspecified point in the future. As if it was all the same finally, as if time was a single moment endlessly circling on itself."
Therein lies the secret to this wonderful book, I think, and the clue as to the brilliant ending, which of course I won't give away. And don't let's forget the humor, please. Newfoundlanders make me laugh as no one else, expect perhaps the Irish. I'll let you discover those chuckles for yourself, and I hope you will... soon.
Well done, Michael, well done.