How to Have a Pleasant Train Trip

Please welcome Gesse, a new contributor to the blog! She has this to say about herself: As a kid I used to try to read while walking, but have since realized that this is a dangerous idea.  I still try to find plenty of time for reading, though, and am always eager to share my opinions with my friends and family.  I figure that sharing my opinions in this blog will give my friends and family a much needed break!

Galore is well-titled, in that it really contains a lot of stuff!  A lot of characters, a lot of history, a lot of thoughtful observations about modern life and a lot of beautiful turns of phrase. Michael Crummey creates a specific, detailed world, which is interesting both in its similarities to and its departures from our own world.  I read most of Galore on a train trip between Seattle and Portland.  I make this trip pretty frequently and generally spend a lot of time walking to the dining car and back, and wondering if that woman on her cell phone will ever end her very loud conversation.  While reading Galore I was entirely unaware of such distractions; the first time I looked up from the book we were arriving in Seattle.  If that’s not enthralling, I don’t know what is!

The book begins with a retelling of the Jonah and the whale story. This Jonah is named Judah and he has washed up on the shore of a remote Newfoundland town called Paradise Deep.  As we learn about Judah’s story and the different reactions the townspeople have to his presence, we begin to understand the individuals that populate this settlement and the elaborate interconnections between them.  As the novel continues we follow these same families out of a mystical past into recognizable historical periods, tracing the changes they experience on both personal and societal levels.

Others have compared Crummey to García Marquez, and while I can see the similarities between their magical-realist approaches and their facility with an enormous cast of characters, I think Crummey’s writing is something unique.  The specific blend between realism and magic is all his own and in his hands common words and everyday occurrences become fresh and strange.  If you’re a fan of richly drawn, literary historical fiction or even science fiction with a well-created alternate world, you shouldn’t miss Galore.