“Sweetland is a thing of beauty, one of the finest novels we are likely to encounter this year. It demonstrates, as the best fiction does (and as Crummey’s novels always have) that the past is always with us, and that contemporary events are history embodied and in motion.”
From the award-winning author of Galore comes a story about loyalty and courage, about the human will to persist even when all hope seems lost. With incomparable emotional power and depth, Michael Crummey delivers his most irresistible novel yet.
For twelve generations, the inhabitants of a remote island off Newfoundland’s south coast have lived and died together. Now, crippled by the loss of the commercial fishery that sustained them, they are offered a government compensation package to leave the island for good. Already abandoned by the young in search of work, facing the loss of their school, their church, their single store, the remaining residents slowly surrender to the inevitable.
All but Moses Sweetland.
Former fisherman, retired lightkeeper, lifelong bachelor, Sweetland resists the concerted, sometimes violent coercion of family and friends in order to hold onto the only place he’s ever called home.
Rash, resourceful, inscrutable, cunning, Moses Sweetland ranks with fiction’s most unforgettable characters, as do many of those closest to him. There is his great nephew, Jessie, a complicated youngster whose best friend happens to be Sweetland’s brother, dead now for half a century. Childhood sweetheart Queenie Coffin, who hasn’t stepped foot outside her house since 1970. The feral and mercenary Priddle brothers, who just might be willing to burn Sweetland out of house and home if he refuses to leave.
But Sweetland’s most intimate relationship is with the island that shaped him, a place at once beautiful and potentially lethal, as enigmatic and as fierce as the man himself. As his options dwindle, Sweetland concocts a scheme to remain the island’s only living resident. Cut off from the outside world, he is forced to call upon all his guile and strength simply to survive.
Just when you thought the masterful Crummey couldn’t get any better, Sweetland offers glorious, incontrovertible proof that he can.
“…His book is a convincing picture of the landscape…it is a story of everyday heroism gone almost too far, and a meditation on mortality: time is up for both place and man, but Crummey’s novel is doggedly life-affirming.”
–The Sunday Times
“Part Independent People (for the fierce portrait of its main character’s unwavering determination) and part Absalom, Absalom! (for the unusual set of characters surrounding him), Crummey’s latest novel tells the absorbing story of Moses Sweetland’s singular battle to hold on to his home on a tiny island off the coast of Newfoundland…as Crummey’s elegant prose and storytelling prowess make abundantly clear, no man is an island.”
–New York Times Book Review
“When the government orders that the population of Sweetland, an isolated and insular town on a remote Canadian island, must relocate, Moses Sweetland, whose ancestors settled the town, refuses. The novel unfolds as he remembers the island’s folklore and his family’s history, while watching his neighbors leave their homes. Beautifully capturing the wild, rugged landscape, Crummey has written a novel about love for the land one is from.”
“It broke my damned heart to finish it.”
–BookRiot Round-Up: The Best Books We Read in December
“Sweetland is a thing of beauty, one of the finest novels we are likely to encounter this year.”
–Quill & Quire
“Crummey’s novel is all of a piece, its apparent simplicity of style, like that of its protagonist and his setting, concealing a primordial power. Much of the book’s beauty lies in its finely wrought portrait of this last, exemplary islander, who – in the manner of Judah, the mute whale-born man in Galore – sustains those around him in ways so unobtrusive and gracious that detecting them can be like discovering buried treasure.”
–Globe and Mail
“seductive, supple and haunting.”
“Superb…Sweetland, Crummey’s finest novel yet, reaches its mythic and mesmerizing heights…”
“Crummey, whose last book, Galore, won the Commonwealth Prize, does both man and place justice: Moses is a memorably strong-willed character.”
“The elimination of an entire community, and what it represents, is deeply felt. 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.”
–Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Remarkable . . .The conflict between the old and new ways, memory and reality are ongoing themes in the novel, strengthened by Crummey’s knack for seamlessly mixing past and present.”
“Michael Crummey, author of the critically acclaimed novel Galore, returns with Sweetland, the epic tale of a small island community in Newfoundland struggling against elimination by the mainland government. When the declining town is offered a resettlement package stipulating that all residents must leave, Moses Sweetland, who carries deep ancestral ties to the island, is the only one determined to oppose.”
“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. Michael Crummey’s deceptively spare language perfectly matches the tiny island community at the novel’s center: beneath the quiet surface, there’s huge emotional depth and heart.”
-Celeste Ng, author of Everything I Never Told You
“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.”
-Alexi Zentner, author of The Lobster Kings
“For me Sweetland was a novel about loss, the loss of loved ones, the loss of what might have been in relationships long over, the loss of identity…. I think I will be forever affected by the profound sense of loss in this novel….But – it is not all so unbearably sad – there is a wonderful sense of the absurd in Sweetland and the beauty of the landscape of Newfoundland and the wonderful eccentricity of the people who populate the novel….I usually wait 10 or 20 years to re-read a book, but Sweetland – there is so much beauty, wisdom and story in Sweetland I read it all over again right away – and found it even better the second time around.”
–Parry Sound North Star
“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. Ignoring government bribes and threats from his neighbors, the obstinate waterman Moses Sweetland defiantly chooses the isolation of his family home off the Newfoundland coast to become a present-day Robinson Crusoe: resourceful, irascible, wily, and wholly unforgettable.”
-John Pipkin, author of Woodsburner
“This is a familiar story, but it is told precisely and heartwarmingly, realistically and without sentimentality. Its small cast of accompanying characters are well and wittily delineated, and Crummey’s characteristic switching between past and present is done craftily….[W]ith this simple and profound story, [Crummey] may become a newfound author for readers of Jon Hassler, Kent Haruf, and other masters of small-town fiction.”
Doubleday, Canada, Fall 2014
Liveright/Norton, US, Spring 2015
Constable & Robinson, UK, Spring 2015
Wydawnictwo Wiatr Od Morza Michal Alenowicz, Poland
Leméac Editeurs, Quebec/French North America
Storytel Poland, Poland
Newfoundland and Labrador Book Awards 2016 Winner
Longlisted for CBC Canada Reads 2016
CBC Bookies 2015 Winner for Fiction
Finalist for the 2014 Governor General’s Award for Fiction
A Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year 2014
A CBC Best Book of 2014