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Sweetland by Michael Crummey


by Michael Crummey

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  buriedinprint | Jun 14, 2017 |
Moses Sweetland, “one crazy coot”, lives on a remote island off the coast of Newfoundland in a community that has been served for decades by a Government-funded supply boat. Now the government wants to cut the boat run so they’ve offered generous packages for the islanders to resettle on the mainland. The catch is, all the residents must agree to the scheme, and Moses doesn’t want to go.

Faced with mounting pressure from the government and the community, he signs the deal and then fakes his own death so that he can be left behind on the island.

Crummey is a poet first and that is evident in his prose. But his story is every bit as good as his form. I highly recommend Sweetland.

5 stars ( )
1 vote ParadisePorch | Jan 6, 2017 |
"The sound of rain approaching out over the ocean, how he could hear it coming miles off before it hammered across the island like a herd of wild animals passing through." - page 196

It's tough for me to find words for this book. I think Crummey intentionally leaves the book vague, the reader in a fog like the character Moses Sweetland starts out with on the first page. A book about solitude, connecting people to places. Sweetland chooses to remain at the island that is named after his ancestors, even when he isn't supposed to (the reason isn't clear as to why everyone must leave an island that already has the internet.) The books starts shifting towards weirdness, reality or the delusions of Moses Sweetland it is tough to distinguish. Crummey intentionally makes Sweetland distant, even if you can't help but be sympathetic to his situation. It's tough to tell what is going on in his head, which is what fiction does best, I think. Crummey also leaves many female characters to the side but if his main character is difficult to figure out, why is that a surprise? I liked the setting though. Crummey's writing style is great, if only because he loves the Newfoundland he is writing about. Crummey will remain on my radar for future books to read, but I hope they all aren't such intentional puzzles. ( )
  booklove2 | Jun 3, 2016 |
This was one of my Group read books. This was first time I heard about this author or this book. Lot of my friends have a positive review with good stars on it but that didn't stop me about what I feel about this book. Alas!
The setting was good, an island, a generation of people with an ancestry, not bothered with outside world, everybody knows everybody kind of a story. I liked that part though.
The narration was a bit spontaneous, or can I say just like what goes in brain and so disconnected for another person who is reading that brain. I just felt like that another person here. ( )
  PallaviSharma | May 9, 2016 |
This author Michael Crummey does know his arse from a dory — unlike the hapless Toronto journalist writing about the “authentic Newfoundland” and disparaged by the book’s main character, Moses Sweetland.

Sweetland. From the old family of Swietlund. Several generations in a small village on the coast of Newfoundland. They lived the traditional Newfoundland fishing life. The men and the boys out on the seas, or out in the backwoods trapping and hunting. The women on land, salting and preserving the fish, tending hostile gardens, and sharing the communal poverty. With increasing mechanization, these fishing outports weren’t economically viable. It cost too much for providing electricity, water, schools, ferries etc. The collapse of the cod stocks accelerated the collapse of those societies. Villages that had existed for hundreds of years were abandoned, as part of government-sponsored forced resettlement programs.

This story speaks for the hundreds of outport villages in Newfoundland which were bought out, dismantled and relocated over the last half of the twentieth century.
(It’s happening again.

A picturesque outport, Little Bay Islands, is considering whether to accept a relocation deal that would pay the residents $250,000 to leave. If 90% approve, they will be relocated and all services will be withdrawn. Not everyone is in favour. I wonder if this community provided inspiration for this book because their circumstances are eerily similar. (http://globalnews.ca/news/852263/newfoundland-town-awaits-vote-on-accepting-relo...))

Waves of menfolk fanned out across Canada, in search of jobs in construction, bridge building, mining, and lately the oil sands out west in northern Alberta. Working hard, drinking and drugging hard, living rough, but making good money so that their families back home can be supported. “Economic refugees mourning the anachronistic little world they’d abandoned, the squat saltboxes that housed three generations, the brawling weather, the root cellars and fish flakes and outhouses, the rabbit warren of bloodlines knitting the tiny outports into impossible tangles.”

Some people seek and even embrace change, some are carried along like flotsam on the tide. Some fight it furiously, and some try to ignore it in the hopes it will just go away. How do you let go of the place that holds your life, your memories, and the ghosts of your families? To move forward you have to look ahead and stop looking behind. In the meantime there is grief over loss of family, loss of opportunities, loss of potential, loss of a way of life, loss of community.

Sweetland doesn’t want the deal. The old codger is the last holdout. He needs to finish his grieving. And in the process he will lose and then find his way.

The story searches for itself in the first third, but be patient. It asserts itself and begins to coalesce midway, and then in glorious Crummey-fashion, it soars.

(Thanks to Random House for ARC via NetGalley.)

( )
1 vote TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
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Perhaps the secret of the novel’s Buddhistic allure is to be found in Sweetland’s increasing realization that an individual’s life is “a made-up thing,” real only to the extent that it involves a communing with death. Sweetland’s protracted, wrenching defiance gives him back his lost potency.
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Even unto them will I give in mine house and
within my walls a place and a name...

- Isaiah
for Stan Dragland
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0871407906, Hardcover)

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.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:15:20 -0400)

The scarcely populated town of Sweetland rests on the shore of a remote Canadian island. Its slow decline finally reaches a head when the mainland government offers each islander a generous resettlement package--the sole stipulation being that everyone must leave. Fierce and enigmatic Moses Sweetland, whose ancestors founded the village, is the only one to refuse. As he watches his neighbors abandon the island, he recalls the town's rugged history and its eccentric cast of characters… (more)

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