The word galore means “in abundance.” In Michael Crummey’s Galore, the only things in abundance are misery, desire, greed, and a compellingly tenacious will to survive.
Galore roams the lives of the families in Paradise Deep, Newfoundland, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The landscape offers little respite. It’s bitterly cold, windy, and wet. It’s a fickle mistress given to cycles of plenty and want, imperilling those who try to eke out an existence by fishing, logging, and sealing. Death by starvation and exposure is ever-present. In living each day, we’re all that much closer to our own deaths — especially the hardscrabble residents of Paradise Deep.
…death wasn’t sudden and complete but took a man out of the world piecemeal, a little at a time.
The characters and the beautiful prose carry Galore through what I feel is an uneven narrative. The book follows mostly several generations of the Devine family. You can’t help but love them for the sheer effort they put into survival and the sacrifices they make to help one another along though a harsh world.
Judah Devine (a variation on Jonah) is adopted into the fold after being rescued from the belly of a beached whale by a woman known only as Devine’s Widow. He’s known for his bright white hair, skin, and a pervasive foul odor that he passes on to his offspring. Judah’s origin and past is a mystery — he never utters a word. He becomes a Devine only after Devine’s Widow arranges a hasty marriage to her granddaughter Mary Tryphena Devine, to save “The Great White” from a mob. The Devines are resourceful and stubborn, two qualities that sustain them over the decades.
Galore and its characters are imaginative — Crummey does a great job chronicling everyone’s longings, desires, conflicts, and losses and you become invested as you follow the burgeoning families. This book has a deep and conflicted soul of its own and I loved it for that. The characters are resolute in their beautiful, pervasive, stoic catechism.
They came finally to the consensus that life was a mystery and a wonder beyond human understanding, a conclusion they were comfortable with though there was little comfort in the thought.
My primary quibbles with Galore are narrative threads raised and dropped and seemingly random time hopping that accelerates the plot. You care about the characters and it’s irritating when they’re suddenly elderly and you’re not privy as a reader to those missing years. Critical characters like Bride Newman simply die offstage and the revelation feels rushed — an afterthought. I would have loved a longer book that followed fewer characters more closely.
Despite these irritations, Crummey is a writer I plan to explore further. In the words of Callum Devine, “what is it you wants?”
I wants me s’more Newfoundland, b’y.
2 thoughts on “Galore by Michael Crummey”
A deeply thoughtful and intriguing review. The passages you quote remind me faintly of Marilynne Robinson’s “Housekeeping,” a gem beyond measure. Certainly, I sometimes feel that piecemeal death in the midst of life…
Thank you, Cate! I hadn’t heard of Housekeeping — will definitely check it out. As Rebecca Solnit put it so eloquently, “Books are solitudes in which we meet.”