When a whale beaches itself on the shore of the remote coastal town of Paradise Deep, the last thing any of the townspeople expect to find inside it is a man, silent and reeking of fish but remarkably alive. The discovery of this mysterious person, soon christened Judah, sets the town scrambling for answers as its most prominent citizens weigh in on whether he is man or beast, blessing or curse, miracle or demon.
Though Judah is a shocking addition, the town of Paradise Deep is already full of unusual characters. King-me Sellers, self-appointed patriarch, has it in for an inscrutable woman known only as Devine’s Widow, with whom he has a decades-old feud. Her granddaughter, Mary Tryphena, is just a child when Judah washes ashore but finds herself tied to him all her life in ways she never expects. Galore is the story of the saga that develops between these families, full of bitterness and love, spanning two centuries.
With Paradise Deep, award-winning novelist Michael Crummey imagines a realm in which the line between the everyday and the otherworldly is impossible to discern. Sprawling and intimate, stark and fantastical, Galore is a novel about the power of stories to shape and sustain us.
Michael Crummey is a poet and storyteller, as well as the author of the critically acclaimed novels River Thieves and The Wreckage and the short-story collection Flesh and Blood. He has been nominated for the Giller Prize, the IMPAC Dublin Award, and the Rogers Writers’ Trust Fiction Prize, and he won the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize for Canada for Galore. He lives in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Galore opens with a quote from Memories of My Melancholy Whores by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, which is appropriate since Michael Crummey’s novel bears the clear influence of Marquez’s work. Like Marquez’s seminal novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, Galore takes place in a small town over the course of several generations, focused on the members of one central family, many of whom have similar names, and certain elements of the story play with magical realism. Crummey, an accomplished poet as well as a novelist, also shares Marquez’s knack for haunting, evocative language, which paints a vivid and otherworldly portrait of his setting on the Newfoundland coast during the 19th century.
Narrator John Lee is a perfect match for Crummey’s style, his almost musical voice augmenting the already folkloric way that Crummey tells the story. Lee brings a lovely lilt to the voices of the Irish-immigrant characters, and differentiates them with subtle inflections. That’s important, because the novel introduces dozens of characters over the course of its sprawling narrative, all tied together loosely by Judah Devine, a mute albino man who’s discovered alive in the belly of a whale as the story begins. Judah serves as a sort of totem for the small fishing village where he ends up, and while his arrival is probably the most fantastical event in Crummey’s story, it presages other mystical happenings that are seamlessly interwoven with the cycle of birth, marriage, and death that forms the history of the village.
Lee wades through all of it elegantly, jumping from one character to another with ease. The way that Crummey obscures the passage of time is one of Galore’s most appealing elements, and Lee navigates those transitions smoothly, carrying the listener on a journey that had the potential to be disorienting in the hands of a less assured performer. Instead, it’s captivating and transporting, and the credit for that goes to both Crummey and Lee. Josh Bell
"Crummey lovingly carves out the privation and inner intricacies that mark his characters' lives with folkloric embellishments and the precision of the finest scrimshaw." (Publishers Weekly)
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