Galore by Michael Crummey

21st April 2011

Thought I’d pop by with a few lines from my current read: Galore by Michael Crummey. I’ll be joining in a book club discussion over with Jen at Devourer of Books this Tuesday, April 26. But until then…

As soon as I read the premise of this book, I immediately thought of one of my favorite short stories by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “The Very Old Man with Enormous Wings.” You can read the full text here. It’s an absolutely beautiful story about a man who turns up in a small fishing village after a storm, ill and battered. The village doesn’t know whether to kill him or laud him, so he ends up locked away, dirty and alone. Please go read it. Then come back here and tell me what you think.

So what is Galore about? It’s about a Newfoundland fishing village, Paradise Deep. A whale washes up on its shores one day, and the fishermen kill it, and as they gut it, a man slips from the belly, whiter than white and stark naked but breathing. They name him Judah, after a mixup as to whether it’s Judas or Jonah who ends up in the belly of the whale in the Bible. Some think he’s an evil omen while others believe he’s sent from above.

Galore follows Judah, his descendants, and the populace of Paradise Deep and nearby Gut over the next two generations, as religions take hold and die off and power passes from one man to the next. Galore is, quite literally, a showcase of the cycle of a life and many lives (who I’d love to just sit and talk about, so come back to discuss if you read it), always the same yet always changing.

The more I read, the more this novel reminded me of two of my all-time favorites, The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende and East of Eden by John Steinbeck. Similarly to Crummey’s storytelling, Allende and Steinbeck relay a family’s saga, its joy and despair, success and failure all while dancing lightly between the realm of the real and the imaginary. Galore, too, has elements of magical realism, and in its wake, Crummey’s artfulness is still working on me.

–He watched her awhile then, that little cauldron of doggedness and impotent distress, reflecting his own heartache back to him. Shadows and light and wishful thinking was all there was to the world, that much he could attest.

–Watching Judah emerge from the whale’s guts, King-me felt the widow was birthing everything he despised in the country, laying it out before him like a taunt. Irish nor English, Jerseyman nor bushborn nor savage, not Roman or Episcopalian or apostate, Judah was the wilderness on two legs, mute and unknowable, a blankness that could drown a man.

–He entered and left the stories by side doors and windows and found it impossible to distinguish one book from another. [This is so close to a favorite line in East of Eden. Beautiful.]

Read this one: immediately / asap* / when you get a chance / if you’re bored

*Simply because this book will not be for everyone. It is a family saga, and as such, is a slow read. It is beautifully written, but it is certainly not action packed. However, I think it is well worth the time and effort.

  • I’m so glad you liked this. And you’ve reminded me that I should read something by Allende – she’s one I’ve for some inexplicable reason always avoided.

    • pickygirl

      I really didn’t like Daughter of Fortune, but The House of the Spirits is absolutely wonderful.

  • Heard so many great things about this book recently. I think it’s often very hard for an author to combine a strong narrative/characters with magical realism and be successful, but it sounds like Crummey has done just that. Can’t wait to read the full discussion!

    • pickygirl

      Jenna – I can’t wait for the discussion either. There’s so much I want to say about this book!

  • I love Micheal Crummey but haven’t read this book yet. It’s still sitting on my ereader waiting for me to get to it. I’m happy to here it reminded you of House of the Spirits. That is one of my all time favourite books so I’ve got high hopes for Galore.

    • pickygirl

      Christa – Ditto on the Allende. Very much like it, and one to savor.

  • I have a copy of this one and am really excited for it. I think it will be exactly the kind of book I do like, and your review has convinced me even more of this. Also, I haven’t read a single Canadian book all year, so clearly I need to rectify that!

    • pickygirl

      I’m so glad I’ve convinced you. I hope you enjoy it. Let me know what you think of it.

  • I’m currently working on this one. I picked it up a couple of weeks ago and didn’t get past the first paragraph (wasn’t in the mood), but I gave it another go this week and love it so far.

    • pickygirl

      I was the same exact way! But once I got into it, I really enjoyed it. Hope it’s a similar experience for you.

  • Pingback: Galore: A Novel, by Michael Crummey – Book Review | Linus's Blanket()

  • Pingback: Galore – Book Review – caribousmom()

  • Laurie

    So what’s the significance of the tooth? It comes up three times . Did I miss something? Was it a tumor within Esther or is Newman wrong and the story continues?