I made two loaves of bread and a pot of vegetable soup today, inspired by both the snow and Michael Crummey’s novel Sweetland, which I finished around 1 am. At the time I interviewed him for last week’s Literary New England Radio Show, I hadn’t read more than the first dozen pages. I was waist-high in another book and am not someone who can read more than one at a time. But after talking with Crummey, and hearing Sweetland’s backstory, I decided to move it to the top of the to-reads. I’m so glad I did.
Set on a remote island off the coast of Newfoundland and sparsely–yet powerfully–written, Sweetland is a story about choices, family, truths, power, love, loyalty and secrets. It’s a story about a man named Moses Sweetland, who has nothing yet everything. Like Moses, most of those who live on the island of Sweetland (which Moses’ family settled) have never had any other home, or known life to be any other way. Among them are Queenie Coffin, who hasn’t stepped outside her house since 1970; the drug-addled Priddle brothers, who see Moses as a father; Duke Fewer, who keeps a barbershop but never gives a haircut; and Moses’ fragile young nephew Jesse, whose connection to the island is as primal and essential as Moses’. I’d love to spend a day there with all of them.
On Sweetland, stews made of rabbit, fish, potatoes and other island-borne ingredients make up a good part of Moses’ diet. So my dinner tonight is sort of an homage to him and Crummey’s terrific book. If Sweetland isn’t get on your reading radar, it should be. You can learn more about the book from its official website. You can also listen to my conversation with Crummey in the Literary New England Radio Show Archives. As Moses might say, I thinks yous be glad not to miss it.
– Cindy Wolfe Boynton @writercindywb