Galore by Michael Crummey

I first heard about Michael Crummey’s Galore last December when Other Press hosted a happy hour for bloggers and publishing industry professionals showcasing their current and upcoming catalog.  The folks there were very excited about Galore and I was very intrigued by the premise, a man being cut from the belly of a whale and his life impacting the inhabitants of a tiny fishing village in Newfoundland. The idea for BOOK CLUB had already been gathering steam in my head and after I roped Jen into the project we, as big fans of re-tellings of classic works, folktales and myth, chose Galore as one of the titles for BOOK CLUB.

As excited as I was to read Galore, I was nervous reading the first few pages, solely due to my own reading biases. Judah, formerly of the whale’s belly reeked of rotten fish, as in:

“An astonishing stink of dead fish rose from the man’s skin like smoke off a green fire, insinuating itself in every nook. Even with the windows left open to the freezing cold the smell kept the household awake.”

I have my quirks about things I will watch and read, dark places with ragged and stinky people and humanoid creatures are hard on me for some reason, and hard for me to ignore. I think that’s why I don’t read much medieval fiction. Anyway, Judah’s stench, apparently, does not go away (eww!), but  I was so involved in the excellent writing and complex, well-drawn characters that I got over Judah’s funk, and only occasionally wondered why they didn’t make him bathe in tomato juice.

More than anything Galore is a big story about families and family.  It’s the saga of the Devines and the Sellers, with their intricately intertwined histories, living in the adjacent towns of Paradise Deep and Gut. They hurt each other, curse each other, they feud and make tentative bargains with one another, and they love each other. For a book that only vaguely has a plot, I found Galore riveting. As I sat and read it, I felt as if I were in the town and running around with these people – suffering with them in their lean times and hardships, and thrilled when they build up in time of prosperity. Crummey has a wonderful way of imbuing the narrative with mystery when he introduces nameless characters to the reader. Characters whom you have met before, and think you know what’s going on with them, are introduced under a different guise and the story you thought you knew becomes something different and startlingly clear.

The plot is slow moving and broad, it’s mainly about…life, so this might not work for readers looking for more action based reading. If you love sweeping novels, spanning several years with characterizations not only deep, but fascinating, then I think you will very much enjoy Galore. Highly Recommended.

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