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The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay: Fiction [Paperback]

Beverly Jensen
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 30 2011

Published posthumously through the efforts of Beverly Jensen's many supporters, this widely acclaimed novel-in-stories offers a richly textured portrait of a bygone era. In 1916, Idella and Avis Hillock live on the edge of a chilly bluff in New Brunswick-a barren 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 beautifully charts the trajectory of the Hillocks' divergent lives against the background of a lost slice of Americana.

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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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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Hard Life in Hardscrabble Bay! Oct. 23 2010
By Louise Jolly TOP 50 REVIEWER
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Hard Knock Life in Hardscrabble Bay Oct. 10 2010
By Nicola Mansfield HALL OF FAME TOP 50 REVIEWER
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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4.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Lost for Words July 29 2010
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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4.0 out of 5 stars The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay July 26 2010
The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay by Beverly Jensen (Rated: P throughout)
Viking Canada
ISBN: 0670021660
Published July 2010
Hardcover, 320 pages

Reviewed by Sandra
The title of this book intrigued me - is Hardscrabble Bay the name of a place? As I began the novel I learned that the story takes place in Bay Chaleur, New Brunswick in 1916. Hardscrabble is a state of being. Webster's Dictionary disclosed that the word "hardscrabble" was first used in 1804 to mean getting a meager living from poor soil. As "Wild Bill" Hillock, one of the main characters says in reference to his surroundings, "it was a hardscrabble land and a hardscrabble bay - not easy to get a living out of."
The story is about two sisters, Idella and Avis Hillock whose childhood is filled with adventures on their "hardscrabble" farm. However, life changes for them suddenly one day when their mother dies at home in childbirth. The first chapter of the novel movingly describes the events of that day. Their father never fully recovers from the death of his wife. He has no idea how to raise two girls. I felt sad for them as they were moving into adolescence for they had no one to clue them into the proverbial "facts of life". In the words of Avis "we none of us got too good an introduction to things of that nature. No one told us a damned thing. We had no mother. We used to lie there in the bed, me and Idella, and try to put the pieces together." The novel is a tale of their lives from then on into old age--for Idella, a fairly normal life, despite a philandering husband; for Avis, a series of unsuitable men, who fail to dampen her zest for life. The story spans about 70 years.
The book is full of wonderful descriptions.
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