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The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay: Fiction Paperback – Aug 30 2011

4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books; Reprint edition (Aug. 30 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 014311929X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0143119296
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 1.7 x 21.5 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 272 g
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars 7 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #585,344 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description

About the Author

Beverly Jensen earned an MFA in drama from Southern Methodist University. After her death in 2003, her story “Wake” was published in the New England Review, included in The Best American Short Stories 2007, and was nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She is survived by her husband, Jay Silverman, and their two children.

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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
It is very sad that this author, Beverly Jensen, died in 2003 from pancreatic cancer at the age of 49 before this book was ever published. Thanks to the dedication of her writing friends and her husband, Jay Silverman, Beverly's work can now be enjoyed around the world.

From dust jacket:

"In 1916, Idella and Avis Hillock live on the edge of a chilly bluff in New Brunswick, Canada-a hardscrabble world of potato farms and lobster traps, rough men, hard work, and baffling beauty. From "Gone", the heartbreaking account of the crisis that changed their lives forever, through "Wake," a darkly comic saga of funeral plans gone awry, 'The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay chronicles their trials, adventures, loves, and losses over seven decades. The lively supporting cast includes the unforgettable "Wild Bill" Hillock; Idella's philandering husband Eddie; Avis's string of ne'er-do-well men; and a collection of locals whom Idella entertains at her small Maine General Store. Beverly Jensen has fashioned a richly textured and vivid record of a bygone era, a classic American tale of resilience and the strength of family ties."
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Format: Hardcover
Idella and Avis Hillock are the sisters from Hardscrabble Bay, and this book is a collection of six vignettes from their lives from 1916 until July 1987. Hardscrabble Bay is a chilly bluff in New Brunswick, Canada: potato farms and lobster traps; isolated natural beauty and hard work.

Three of the stories stand out for me: `Gone' which opens the book with the tragedy of their mother's death in childbirth and the events immediately following; the `Holdup' which showcases Idella in her small Maine general store; and `Wake' which relates to their father's funeral some fifty years later. As Idella (Della) and Avis grow from childhood to adulthood it is clear that Idella is the more responsible and conventional of the two. Both suffer as a consequence of their mother's death, as does their brother Dalton and their father `Wild Bill'.

These are gritty stories: despair and the darker side of life are seemingly ever present, and yet Idella and Avis make their separate ways through their lives without succumbing to self-pity. There is tragedy, and also humour.

I enjoyed these stories, this sharing of life events and experiences and wondered at times about the choices each sister made. I wondered, too, how much was fiction and how much drew on family history.

`Life is real! Life is earnest!
And the grave is not its goal' (quoted by Idella from `A Psalm of Life' by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Beverly Jensen died in 2003: this book was published posthumously.

Jennifer Cameron-Smith
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By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWER on Oct. 10 2010
Format: Hardcover
Reason for Reading: The early 1900s time frame and the New Brunswick setting appealed to me right away.

This book was brought to publication by Beverly Jensen's family after her death in 2003. The book consists of interconnected short stories which tell the tale of two sisters who grew up in New Brunswick, poor, on a farm where their alcoholic father raised them on his own. A couple of the stories had been previously published.

From the beginning chapter (ie. story) I was taken into this book and immersed into the lives of the Hillock family, not to come back to the reality of my own family until I had finished. Even when I was not reading, I was thinking about the characters. These stories are completely character driven and the readers becomes intimately familiar with the major players. The book is divided into Parts and starts off in 1916 with the mother dying in the childbirth of the 3rd daughter, 4th child. This utterly destroys the dynamics of the family as it was the mother who connected her family together with maternal and womanly love. The father is devastated at the loss of the only one he has ever loved who has ever made him gentle, and being a hard man to begin with, eking out a living from an unforgiving land and the dangerous sea he has always taken his down time with a bottle. This leaves him incapable of raising three children, nor of being able to show them love or compassion, though it is there. This part of the book grabs your heart and makes for compelling reading. Each story is set a few years ahead of the previous one as the children grow to mid/late teens.

For the rest of the book the story concentrates on Della the oldest sister, the more responsible of the two, and continues to tell her life story up till 1987.
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Format: Hardcover
The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay chronicles the lives of both Idella, and Avis Hillock. The book is sectioned off into snippets, and there is a span of 4 to 5 years, or longer between each story. The book itself spans roughly 70 years. It primarily follows the life of Idella, but we do get to read from Avis' viewpoint from time to time.
I found myself immersed in the story at the beginning. I really enjoyed the writing style and found that I was reading fairly quickly. I loved how independent Idella was, and how she wanted to get away from the life she was living. However, midway through, the book started to drag a bit. I'm not sure if it was anything in particular, or if circumstances in the book warranted the story to slowly unfold. It then picked up again closer to the end. I found that I enjoyed the stories more so when the sisters were together, though I didn't particularly like Avis' character. I found her too crass, and didn't always appreciate how she treated Idella. Such is sisterly love though.
This book was published posthumously, and is a tribute to Jensen's writing and family. It's a shame that she couldn't see her dreams realized. However, her family will always be able to hear her voice through this novel.
All in all, an interesting read. The trouble that Idella and Avis get into make this a heartwarming and sad read. Some may not enjoy the slow pace, but the antics that the girls get up to will have your head shaking, and your lips turning up into a rueful smile.

Disclaimer: I won this book through Penguin Canada's Exclusive Reads program.
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