Just finished Galore by Michael Crummey. I started reading it in drips and drabs over the holidays, but once I was able to dedicate some solid reading time to it, I had trouble putting it down. It is essentially a story of 100 years or so of a remote fishing village in Newfoundland. Or perhaps it is a modern work of Canadian mythology. Maybe it’s an intricate tale of families that are as entwined as the ropes in a fishing net. Just because a story is fiction doesn’t mean it might not be true, right? Crummey makes this impossible place and these unbelievable people come vividly to life.
The story begins with a live man being cut out of a beached whale. He is called Judah by the townsfolk, who argue over the name of the biblical character who emerges from a whale (Jonah or Judas?) as well as whether this stranger is a curse or a good luck charm. The tales that Crummey spins about this place feel like family folklore passed down through uncounted generations. In Part Two, the book jumps ahead and the arrival of a doctor from the States begins to connect the town to the modern world, and starts to root the story itself into the real world. But the ties to the past are strong and history is, of course, doomed to repeat itself.
More than most books, I think Galore will have different meanings to readers with different interests and reading agendas. Is it more historical fiction about the isolation of a small Canadian town in the nineteenth century or the political movements and changes of the early twentieth century? Are its allusions more to the bible or mythology? Are the women strong and pragmatic, or conniving and mystical? Does the power ultimately rest in the hands of men, or with nature and the place itself? I’m sure I would get more out of this book if I read it again, but I’m pretty content with the way I’m feeling about it right now. Lots to discuss for the bookclub that was ambitious enough to take this on. Originally published in Canada in 2009, Galore is being released in the US as a paperback in April, 2011.