Sweetland by Michael Crummey

Adult fiction pick by Jean-Louis

sweetland

(Doubleday Canada, 2014)

In his latest novel, Michael Crummey presents a vivid and heartfelt view into the heart of outport Newfoundland. Our main character, Moses Sweetland, carries the same name as his home island of Sweetland. To say that the book is a love story to place and character is not an understatement. But for all his love of the place, Crummey does not sugar coat the story.

The residents of Sweetland are being offered the chance to relocate. In a cost-saving initiative, the province is offering each resident $100,000 to move off the island so the province can shut down the ferry service, school, and save money on looking after the far-flung residents of this island outpost. Unlike the forced relocations of previous decades, the deal only works if all the residents of the islands take the deal. Moses is a hold-out and this does not endear him to his follow islanders. The novel is an examination of what is holding Moses to the island, what sets others free, and ultimately to a whole conception of what makes up a world and a man’s place in it.

This is a tough novel to write about without giving too much away. The story is gritty, real, and more than a little heart-breaking. Crummey has created a true Newfoundland character–both in the character of Moses Sweetland and the island itself. My prediction is that this novel will take its place among the most celebrated Canadian novels of the year.

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