Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2011
: Out of the belly of a whale, Michael Crummey pulls the marvelous story of Paradise Deep, a remote settlement on the northern Newfoundland coast, a place "too severe and formidable, too provocative, too extravagant and singular and harrowing to be real," teeming with fierce rivalries, affections, and loyalties spanning five intertwined generations. His tale opens in a hungry winter, when a beached humpback arrives as an unexpected gift and the townspeople convene to claim their piece. From a slit in its gut spills a man--white, mute, and eerily alive--who assumes a central role in the lineage of the Divine family. Alternately feared as a devil and revered as a healer, Judah fathers a fish-scented son with the raven-haired Mary Tryphena. Their family comprises the heart of the town's rich mythology, with all its ghosts, mermaid trysts, strange accidents, miraculous babies, and impossible loves, rendered in language so gorgeously raw, it will transport you to a land whose sky is "alive with the northern lights, the roiling seines of green and red like some eerily silent music to accompany the suffering below." --Mari Malcolm
From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Crummey (River Thieves) returns readers to historic Newfoundland in his mythic and gorgeous latest, set over the course of a century in the life of a hardscrabble fishing community. After a lean early-19th-century winter, a whale beaches itself and everyone in town gathers to help with the slaughter. But when a woman known only as Devine's Widow—when she's not called an outright witch—cuts into the belly, the body of an albino man slides out. He eventually revives, turns out to be a mute, and is dubbed Judah by the locals. Judah's mystery—is his appearance responsible for the great fishing season that follows?—is only one among many in this wild place, where the people are afflicted by ghosts and curses as much as cold and hunger. Crummey's survey eventually telescopes to the early 20th century, when Judah's pale great-grandson, Abel, sequesters himself amid medical debris in an old hospital where his opera singer cousin, Esther Newman, has returned and resolved to drink herself to death. But before she does so, she shares with him the family history he never knew. Crummey lovingly carves out the privation and inner intricacies that mark his characters' lives with folkloric embellishments and the precision of the finest scrimshaw. (Apr.)
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