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Our Homesick Songs
Cover of Our Homesick Songs
Our Homesick Songs
Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller PrizeFrom Emma Hooper, acclaimed author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James, a People magazine "Pick of the Week," comes a "haunting fable about the...
Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller PrizeFrom Emma Hooper, acclaimed author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James, a People magazine "Pick of the Week," comes a "haunting fable about the...
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  • Longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize
    From Emma Hooper, acclaimed author of Etta and Otto and Russell and James, a People magazine "Pick of the Week," comes a "haunting fable about the transformative power of hope" (Booklist, starred review)
    in a charming and mystical story of a family on the edge of extinction.
    Newfoundland, 1992. When all the fish vanish from the waters and the cod industry abruptly collapses, it's not long before the people begin to disappear from the town of Big Running as well. As residents are forced to leave the island in search of work, ten-year-old Finn Connor suddenly finds himself living in a ghost town. There's no school, no friends, and whole rows of houses stand abandoned. And then Finn's parents announce that they too must separate if their family is to survive.
    But Finn still has his sister, Cora, with whom he counts the dwindling boats on the coast at night, and Mrs. Callaghan, who teaches him the strange and ancient melodies of their native Ireland. That is until his sister disappears, and Finn must find a way of calling home the family and the life he has lost.

Excerpts-

  • From the book There was a mermaid, said Finn.
    Yes, said Cora. She pulled an old towel up over her, a blanket. Out on the dark green night water, said Finn, there was a mermaid. And, because mermaids need to, it sang. Sad songs, homesick songs. Night after night, over a hundred thousand fish. And the only one who could hear it was a girl.
    Lonely, said Cora.
    Yes, a lonely girl, said Finn. Orphaned. But tying knots and listening to the mermaid sing made her feel a bit better. All through the night, she'd lie awake and knot and listen to the songs.
    And then the storm, said Cora.
    Yes, the storm, said Finn. There was a storm one night. And the girl couldn't think of anything but her parents not being there, and the knots weren't helping as much as they should, and the mermaid was singing and singing, not high and pretty, like you might think, but low and long, like she felt, so the girl got up, out of bed, and followed the song down to the water.
    The sea.
    Yes, to the sea. Where the storm was wild and it was probably too dangerous –
    Definitely –
    And it was definitely too dangerous, but she kept going anyway, the mermaid's singing washing up to her, calling out to her. She walked all the way to the edge of the sea and then, even though it was freezing cold, she took another step into the water. She should have sunk down, but she didn't. She stayed on the surface.
    She what?
    She stayed on the surface.
    She did? I don't remember this part . . .
    She did. Because the sea was so thick with cod, brought out by the singing, hundreds of thousands of them, she could walk on them, right across their backs, out and out and out towards the song . . .
    Oh . . .
    And it got louder and louder until it was louder than the wind, until –
    Until she saw it wasn't a mermaid at all, said Cora. Yes, said Finn. Until she saw it wasn't a mermaid. It was Dad. It was our dad. Singing.
    Cora and Finn were on the ferry, going west. The sun had set and their parents were asleep, leaning against each other, surrounded by bags and boxes. There was no one else there. It was too foggy to see out the windows, to check for boat lights or anything else. Too quiet and late for music, too much pull of the sea for reading. There was nothing to do but tell stories. Tell this story.
    And then? asked Cora.
    And then everything, said Finn.

Reviews-

  • Publisher's Weekly

    August 13, 2018
    A family struggles to hold on to the only home it has ever known in this moving novel from Hooper (Etta and Otto and Russell and James). The Connor family lives in Big Running, Newfoundland, an oceanside village that has fallen on hard times after the fish have mysteriously disappeared. Parents Aiden and Martha both grew up in Big Running and decided to stay with their adolescent children, Cora and Finn, when the other families began to move away. To support the family, Aiden and Martha alternate months caring for the children and working at an energy plant north of Big Running. With little to hold their attention, Cora and Finn find their own projects: Cora restyles abandoned houses in the theme of countries she dreams of visiting; Finn investigates the local plant life and begins to formulate a theory about the missing fish. When the government halts public services and advises residents to leave the desolate town, the Connors must make drastic choices if they wish to cling to their way of life. With stark prose, Hooper captures the desperation and difficulty of life on the edge of civilization while maintaining the foundation of tenderness as her characters take care of one another in the face of near-insurmountable struggle. Heartbreaking and empathetic, Hooper’s fine novel is a haunting evocation of changing times and the power of place.

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    Penguin Canada
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