The Innocents

 The Innocents by Michael Crummey

The haunting story of a brother and sister - Everett 11, Ada 9 - left to fend for themselves after the deaths of their parents and baby sister.
 They stay in their remote and isolated cove in Newfoundland, living in the tilt that had housed their family - I had to look up "tilt" - a "temporary structure built of logs set in the ground vertically." Alone they stuggle through brutal winters and summers filled with hard physical labour, fishing and growing whatever will keep to feed them through the long frigid months. In the spring, when the ice moves out, a boat comes to take the children's catch of cod in trade for supplies, and each year the captain is surprised to find them still alive.

Through every hardship they persevere, huddling together through the freezing nights to stay warm, but then, as they get older, taking more comfort in each other than brother and sister were ever meant to. This creates a new tension between them, both drawing them closer and driving them apart. It becomes the focus of the rest of the story, affecting everything else that happens and further complicating the struggle and danger of their daily lives. Crummey's powerful descriptive abilities render it all chillingly vivid and terribly painful to read.  

I love Michael Crummey's writing; he takes me out of my life and sets me down in the middle of a story like few other writers can and his Sweetland remains one of my all time favourites. Reading this one I was again awed by his genius, but it was hard to get through. Their pain, their unnatural relationship - it was heavy stuff. I finished it because I had to know if they survived to the end, but once the story took that turn I lost my stomach for it.  


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