Galore indeed. Michael Crummey, with his third novel, serves up a whole heaping fish-bucket full of fantastical characters and larger than life, mythical tales that serve to dazzle and astound the reader. For fans of Gabrial Garcia Marquez, Galore will be a reminiscence of sorts, as Crummey makes no bones of his emulation of that master of magic realism. But that’s where the similarities end.
Crummey’s masterpiece, a finalist in 2011 for the prestigious Impac Dublin Award, chronicles several generations of harsh life in the imagined history of two eccentric families, the Devines and the Sellers’, in a Newfoundland outport in the 19th century – one family Irish Catholic, the other English Protestant.
The petty grudges and diabolical snares the two families, the two religions, lay for each other, give the cast a whimsical and entertaining stage upon which to conjure such unlikely events as a white-haired man emerging live from the guts of a beached whale and a jealous husband who returns from the grave to haunt his wife and the lascivious itinerant priest she beds. There’s sex and murder, blackmail and jealousies, bastard children and infidelities, toothless women and frontier doctors, fisherman’s unions and small town magnates, old widow-witches and biblical twins, and that odd, white-haired Jonah who stinks of fish and wields a tool that rivals even the whale’s. The mind boggles at the sheer density of the book, and how many wondrous lives are portrayed so vividly in so few pages.
Paradise Deep as a setting becomes for the reader a place as real and tangible as any we inhabit, the characters, however unlikely, leaping from the page to burrow themselves forever into the imagination. Michael Crummey is a rare writer, with talent Galore.
For a podcast interview of Michael Crummey by NPR’s Diane Rehm, click here