Galore by Michael Crummey – Book Review

Galore by Michael Crummey
Published by Other Press

Paradise Deep are Gut are insular, isolated Newfoundland communities. Theirs is a hardscrabble life where nothing much changes, in many of the families one generation seems largely interchangeable with another, a constant cycle of birth and death, and birth again. But then, a whale washes ashore. A beached whale represents a bounty for a community that does not have the resources to catch more than cod, but when they slice open the whale’s stomach, a strangely pale man tumbles out. Named Judah due to a disagreement about whether it was Judas or Jonah who was swallowed by the whale in the Bible, the mute man is s subject of fear and wonder for the community by turns.

It is a bit difficult to say what Galore is about, because, at its heart, it is simply about the people of Gut and Paradise Deep. Even Jonah’s odd appearance – both in how he comes to the community and in how he looks – is not truly at the heart of this novel. Instead it is the people, the community as a whole, even.

What is particularly amazing about Galore is just how meaningful and riveting it is, given the number of people and the length of time covered. Although the Devine family – who shelter Jonah to the point of marrying him to a daughter of the family – and the Sellers family are certainly the major players, Crummey has created a rich cast of characters, each with their own particular foibles. The drama of the communities spans more than a century, the majority of that time passing in the second half of the book. This seems like it should be a recipe for a shallow and confusing story, but this is not the case. Certainly, I had to flip back and forth to the family tree at the front of the book more than once to remind myself of how certain people were related, but the characters have surprising depth and are surprisingly compelling given how many of them there are.

Galore is a masterfully written book with beautiful language and fabulous character development. The mixture of day-to-day life and fantastical happenings is particularly well done. Highly recommended.

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