From the award-winning, bestselling author of Galore comes another unforgettable novel. By turns darkly comic and heartbreakingly sad, Sweetland is a deeply suspenseful story about one man’s struggles against the forces of nature and the ruins of memory.
For twelve generations, when the fish were plentiful and when they all-but disappeared, the inhabitants of this remote island in Newfoundland have lived and died together. Now, in the second decade of the 21st century, they are facing resettlement, and each has been offered a generous compensation package to leave. But the money is offered with a proviso: everyone has to go; the government won’t be responsible for one crazy coot who chooses to stay alone on an island.
That coot is Moses Sweetland. Motivated in part by a sense of history and belonging, haunted by memories of the short and lonely time he spent away from his home as a younger man, and concerned that his somewhat eccentric great-nephew will wilt on the mainland, Moses refuses to leave. But in the face of determined, sometimes violent, opposition from his family and his friends, Sweetland is eventually swayed to sign on to the government’s plan. Then a tragic accident prompts him to fake his own death and stay on the deserted island. As he manages a desperately diminishing food supply, and battles against the ravages of weather, Sweetland finds himself in the company of the vibrant ghosts of the former islanders, whose porch lights still seem to turn on at night.
What a fan-fucking-tastic book. It’s the sort of story where I want to read it all in one sitting, because I just want to be immersed in the story and the setting and the characters. But at the same time, I want to savor it and read just a bit here and there. I had a sense of loss when it ended.
I’ve never been to Newfoundland, much less a little island off its coast, but I felt like I knew that place. And the way that Sweetland, the main character, felt so tied to the land brought up feelings for my own hometown. Which is much different and certainly not an island with very few people living on it, but I felt that same sort of tie that makes you want to stay even when it’s not always giving you what you need.
I highly recommend this book. It’s one I really want to read over and over again.
Also I learned something new while reading it. I have a degree in French and studied Quebec a bit in school. WHY DID NO ONE TELL ME THAT THERE IS STILL A TINY PIECE OF LAND OFF THE COAST THAT IS STILL TECHNICALLY A FRENCH COLONY????? I was super confused when this was mentioned in the book, and thanks to Google I read that Miquelon and St Pierre are a “self-governing territorial overseas collectivity of France”. Who knew?!
I’ve already been raving about this one to friends and family, so you should go read it too.
Author: Michael Crummey
Date of Publication: 2014