Sheilagh Fielding—a striking, unconventional, six-foot-three Newfoundland woman with a limp—returns from prolific Johnston's The Colony of Unrequited Dreams for this highly atmospheric sequel. Near the end of WWII, Fielding (as she is known), a notorious St. John's columnist, holes up on the nearby deserted island of Loreburn after her mother dies and leaves her a small inheritance. There, Fielding senses the presence of her mysterious "Provider," who has shadowed her all her life and whom she has never met face-to-face. As Fielding tells her story—abandoned by her mother at six; raised by a father who insinuates she's not his—Fielding's Provider draws closer to her solitary retreat. But Fielding has long kept another secret: she gave birth to twins at the age of 15, who were raised as her half-siblings by her mother in New York City. Johnston's descriptive prose can be exhilarating, from the windswept island to a dingy Manhattan, and he has a sure hand with historical nuggets. There's little tension over the 500-plus pages, and the denouement (her father's identity; her children's fate) is overblown. But Fielding is a fascinating character: she courts her own estrangement as much as she is tormented by it. (Apr.)
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Suspend your disbelief and sit back for a gripping read in the vein of a nineteenth-century romantic novel but featuring a twentieth-century woman. Feisty, iconoclastic, and extremely ironic, Sheilagh Fielding was originally introduced in Johnston's^B award-winning historical novel, The Colony of Unrequited Dreams (1999). There she was featured as the fictitious companion of Joey Smallwood, first premier of Newfoundland. Now, however, she is the star, and her story is a riveting one. The novel opens with Sheilagh, in time and space very close to the end of the novel, trying to find a deserted island to live on. The novel ends with her leaving that island, not many months later. But the time between those two events spans almost 30 years and two wars. Through the use of diaries--her own and others--as well as letters, Sheilagh tells her fascinating story, a tale that includes the puzzle of her paternity and the everlasting effects of her own motherhood. The unsatisfactory ending begs a sequel, but even so, this would make for a rousing discussion in a book club. Maureen O'Connor
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