Summary and book reviews of Sweetland by Michael Crummey

Sweetland

A Novel

by Michael Crummey

Sweetland by Michael Crummey
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Jan 2015, 336 pages
    Paperback:
    Sep 2015, 336 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Norah Piehl

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About this Book

Book Summary

The epic tale of an endangered Newfoundland community and the struggles of one man determined to resist its extinction.

The scarcely populated town of Sweetland rests on the shore of a remote Canadian island. Its slow decline finally reaches a head when the mainland government offers each islander a generous resettlement package—the sole stipulation being that everyone must leave. Fierce and enigmatic Moses Sweetland, whose ancestors founded the village, is the only one to refuse. As he watches his neighbors abandon the island, he recalls the town's rugged history and its eccentric cast of characters. Evoking The Shipping News, Michael Crummey—one of Canada's finest novelists—conjures up the mythical, sublime world of Sweetland's past amid a stormbattered landscape haunted by local lore. As in his critically acclaimed novel Galore, Crummey masterfully weaves together past and present, creating in Sweetland a spectacular portrait of one man's battle to survive as his environment vanishes around him.

1

He saw the government man walking up from the water. The tan pants, the tweed jacket and tie. The same fellow who came out for the last town meeting, or one exactly like him—there seemed to be an endless supply on hand at the Confederation Building in St. John's. The briefcase looking for all the world like something that was in his hand when he left his mother's womb. Sweetland turned away from the window, as if he could hide from the man by not looking his way. Glimpsed a flash of him as he went to the front door of the house, heard the knock.


No one in the cove ever knocked at a door. He thought to ignore it, but the knock came a second and then a third time and he pushed away from the table, went out through the hallway. No one in the cove used their front doors, either. Sweetland's hadn't been opened in years and he had to jimmy it loose of the frame. The man standing there lost in the sun's glare, a voice from the nothing where his mouth should be. "...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Sweetland is perhaps a perfect novel for book group discussions, as it offers numerous opportunities for interpretation and even speculation about everything from the reasons underlying Sweetland's stubbornness to the nature of his ultimate fate. It's also a powerful character study of an older, scarred but undefeated man, as well as a potent portrait of the land and people he adores.   (Reviewed by Norah Piehl).

Full Review (586 words).

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Media Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Having nearly trapped himself in a narrative corner, Crummey writes himself out of it, concluding the book in a way that recalls Aristotle's maxim from the Poetics: the best endings find a way to be both surprising and inevitable.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Through its crusty protagonist, Crummey's shrewd, absorbing novel tells us how rich a life can be, even when experienced in the narrowest of physical confines.

Macleans (Canada)

Impetuous and imperious, Moses Sweetland is an extraordinary, beautifully realized character... Sweetland, Crummey's finest novel yet, reaches its mythic and mesmerizing heights.

Author Blurb Alexi Zentner, author of The Lobster Kings
Michael Crummey's Sweetland is a beautiful prayer for a dying island and an elegy for the titular character, who is both haunted and haunting, besieged by ghosts and yet trying to stop himself from becoming one.

Author Blurb John Pipkin, author of Woodsburner
Wry, touching, and filled with insights into the modern human condition, Michael Crummey's spare and sturdy prose in Sweetland delivers a kaleidoscopic portrayal of a quirky island community forced to abandon their vanishing way of life.

Author Blurb Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You
An evocative portrait of a disappearing way of life, Sweetland is also a powerful rumination on what's lost in letting go of the past—and the sometimes-unbearable cost of trying to hold onto it.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon

At one point in the novel, Moses Sweetland travels to a nearby island to stock up on supplies. While there, he is questioned by the French authorities and asked for his passport. Readers might do a double-take when they read this section — the island in question is only a few miles off the coast of Newfoundland, after all — why would he need his passport.

Saint-Pierre and Miquelon just off the Newfoundland coast The tiny islands of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon, sixteen miles off the coast of Newfoundland, are governed and financed by France, which means that residents can vote in French elections and the Euro is the default currency (although Canadian and American dollars are accepted). French cars and pastry shops contribute to the islands' Old World feel. Saint-Pierre is the ...

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