Reviews for The Innocents: A Novel

by Michael Crummey

Publishers Weekly
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In his fifth novel, Crummey (Sweetland) imparts another heartfelt, extraordinary perspective on survival in the rugged isolation of his homeland of Newfoundland, this time from two pre-adolescent, newly orphaned siblings, after illness fells their infant sister and parents. Evered and Ada Best endure inconceivably severe weather conditions; their 19th-century livelihoods are at the mercy of nature—will they harvest enough fish to trade for necessary winter provisions? Besides the biannual visits of the ship, ironically named The Hope and run by an unscrupulous money-man, the brother and sister only have each other for companionship. Happenstance brings a captain and his cook to their cove—just in time to save a feverish Ada from near death; later a ship full of sailors looking to replace their mainmast arrives, temporarily enlivening their existence. Against the sensitive portrayal of how two na´fs handle their budding sexuality, these fortuitous encounters underscore Evered’s and Ada’s innocence about life and the larger world. Crummey delivers profound insight into how individuals grapple with the forces of nature, not only in the unpredictable environment, but in the mystifying interior of their temperaments, drives, and character. This story of how two guileless youngsters navigate life will have a deep emotional impact on its readers. (Nov.)

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Orphaned and alone in 1800s Newfoundland, a young brother and sister contend with the dire hazards of their coastal surroundings and their own strange physical awakenings.Evered, 11 at the start of this epic, and Ada, two years younger, have in short order lost their parents and their newborn sister to illness. Their childhood largely denied themEvered's hair turns white after burying his father at seathe siblings must overcome food shortages, bone-chilling cold, ferocious storms, temporary blindness caused by exposure to the vast ice field, sickness, and the occasional wandering bear. They live for the next visit from The Hope, a schooner that arrives every six months to trade food staples and supplies for cod. Between visits, they take great risks to find food sources and, on a wrecked ship outside the cove, warm clothes. Nestled up against each other for warmth, Evered and Ada sleep in the same bed, an arrangement that will open them to a world of mysteries they never knew existed. Watch out for the drunken shipmen from The Hope looking the teenage Ada over. Crummey, whose distinctive vision informed the Newfoundland stories in Galore (2011) and Sweetland (2015), writes in a style consistent with the period. (Those tired of the usual phrases for lovemaking might try "They two joined giblets.") But the book's central imagethe traumatizing sight of naked dead bodies in the hold of a wrecked shipshocks in a contemporary way. And Crummey's refusal to go where you might expectthe offbeat humor can catch you by surpriseprovides page-turning pleasures. You can't wait to see what happens next.An unusual, gripping period novel from a much-honored Canadian writer. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Set in Newfoundland over two centuries ago, Crummey's (Sweetland, 2015) latest follows the plight of the Best siblings, Evered and Ada, orphaned at 12 and 10 respectively after an illness claims the lives of their mother, father, and baby sister Martha. Living in isolation in their house on a northern cove, Evered and Ada put aside their grief to fend for themselves, barely considering the notion of making their way to the nearest town. Their provisions are scarce, but Evered fishes and hunts seals, while Ada maintains the house, the two of them adopting the routine their parents performed. As the years roll on, the outside world occasionally intrudes in the form of regular visits from a ship, The Hope, which brings opportunities to trade; an egotistical adventurer and his housemaid, and a company of rowdy young men. But Evered and Ada remain an impenetrable duo, even as their burgeoning sexuality starts to reshape their relationship in ways they can't quite grasp. A gorgeous portrait of remote Newfoundland of yesterday with a remarkable story of human resilience at its core.--Kristine Huntley Copyright 2010 Booklist

Library Journal
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In this fifth novel from Giller Prize short-listed Crummey, Evered and Ada live in a shack with their parents in an isolated cove somewhere along the coast of Newfoundland. When their parents die, the children are left to fend for themselves, and with barely a notion of the outside world, they struggle tenaciously to rise above the deprivation suddenly thrust upon them. The solitude binds them together, but it quickly becomes clear that some sort of intervention is needed for them to carry on. Initially, that intervention comes in the form of a ship called The Hope that has always stopped twice yearly in the cove to exchange supplies for dried fish the family has prepared. As the years pass, the children's isolation and cramped quarters present an entirely different set of challenges. VERDICT Similar to Crummey's Sweetland as it delves into the minutiae of life on a northerly island, this novel can be tough going at times, but fans of narrative travel writing will appreciate Crummey's descriptive flourishes. The relentless bleakness is alleviated by the cinematic depiction of the surrounding wilderness, with Crummey's prose recalling that of Jim Crace in its strange, archaic terminology and sense of timelessness, and the conclusion is strangely moving. [See Prepub Alert, 5/5/19.]—Stephen Schmidt, Greenwich Lib., CT