Michael Crummey The Wreckage

ISBN 13: 9780385660617

The Wreckage

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9780385660617: The Wreckage
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Having achieved considerable success with his first novel, River Thieves, Michael Crummey has written a book that is equally stunning and compelling. The Wreckage is a truly epic, yet twisted, romance that unfolds over decades and continents. It engages readers on the austere shores of Newfoundland's fishing villages and drags them across to Japanese POW camps during some of the worst events of the Second World War. Haunting, lyrical, and deeply intimate, Crummey's language fully exposes his characters' vulnerabilities as they struggle to come to terms with their guilt and regret over decisions made during their impulsive youths.

In the fishing villages of Newfoundland we come across an itinerant Wish Furey. He's a drifter and a projectionist, traveling from island to island bringing films to isolated communities. A Catholic in a staunchly Protestant community, working with an alcoholic, gambling partner, Wish is immediately labeled an outsider. On Little Fogo Island, he spots a desirable young woman in the audience and embarks on an unwavering mission to possess her. Mercedes Parsons - Sadie - is equally infatuated and yields to Wish's advances as much as her chaste upbringing will allow.

Crummey masterfully captures the ferocity of the young romance, the coiled up sexual tension exploding in instances of pure pleasure and ending often in frustration. The pair can steal only scattered moments alone as Sadie's mother puts up a formidable defense against Wish, whom she believes will bring only trouble. However intent he seems on winning Sadie, Wish's character remains mysteriously closed. He is painfully silent around her family, which only strengthens their mistrust. Crummey seems to purposefully disclose only the barest of Wish's intimate thoughts and motivations.

While the romance intensifies, Crummey casts his lovers in a wider shadow. He brings to life the Newfoundland coastline, its unforgiving waters, the religious fervor and prejudice of its inhabitants, their ceaseless work, and the collective anxiety about the burgeoning war.

Unable to defeat Sadie's mother, and unable to quell his conscience after Sadie's breathless pleading, "Don't make a whore of me," Wish flees to St. John's and enlists in the British army. Sadie embarks on a frantic pursuit only to find him gone. Defying her family she stays in the capital, building a new life, the reality of Wish's disappearance - the acute, constant ache of it - gradually settling in.

Wish lands somewhere in southeast Asia and then, finally, in a Japanese POW camp. He suffers agonizing torture under a particularly cruel guard known initially as the Interpreter. We have met the Interpreter already. Crummey has woven this man's narrative through the novel, slowly revealing the origins of his unique hatred toward the Canadian prisoners. Born in British Columbia, Nishino has experienced a harsh brand of discrimination. It is through Nishino that Crummey provides a chilling example of how prejudice can breed exceptionally brutal cycles of violence.

Crummey unveils the depths of his characters' personalities with slow deliberation. The layers of their pain, suffering, and love are peeled back with each recounted memory as the novel makes its transition into contemporary times. With each memory that is unleashed the reader comes closer to understanding the choices the protagonists made, the consequences they endured, and their subsequent feelings of frustration and guilt.

Fifty years after Sadie's flight from St. John's, she returns to Newfoundland to scatter the ashes of her dead husband and collides with Wish whom she believed dead. Sadie reflects, "It was like being handed a photograph from a stranger's collection, one more unexpected glimpse of that face when she thought her memories of it were complete." Memories can be taken out, tampered with, much like the film of the projectionist.

It is here that Crummey cracks open Wish's character. There is a flood of revelations; his sexual exploits as a teenager, the bet made that he could conquer Sadie, Nishino's murder, and his own troubling reaction to it. It's a narrative coup. The reader is left, as Sadie is, stunned and grappling with these revelations and how our perceptions of his character have been altered. Wish is angry, sullen, and paralyzed with guilt. Yet he is still capable of love and being loved and Sadie is the only one left to remind him.

It is a testament to Crummey's gifts as a novelist that he can flow quite easily through time, across landscapes, and between vastly different characters. He vividly captures the mental and physical anguish Wish experienced in the prison camps, and with calm lucidity explores the motives of a Japanese soldier whose actions seem inhumanly cold and calculating. Crummey toys with the readers' sympathies, suggesting there are few distinctions between the enemy and us. He incorporates heartbreaking tragedy - the dropping of the atom bomb, lynchings in America, murderous revenge - to underscore the darker side of humanity. Crummey shows that we are capable of violence, but in the end he proves we are also capable of redemption, forgiveness, and can be led, unashamed, back to the ones we love.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Review:

A Globe and Mail Best Book of the Year
National Bestseller
Nominee, Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize
A Globe and Mail Top 100 Book of 2005

"If there's a better Canadian novel published this year, I'll be amazed."
-- Robert Wiersema, Vancouver Sun

"Heroically human. . . . Crummey offers a journey of stimulating moral inquiry, one of his fiction's most admirable qualities."
--The Globe and Mail

"Extraordinary. . . . [Crummey] explores human nature, charting the moral choices of his characters without passing judgment. . . . [His] gift is to write with compassion, imbuing relationships with complexity and depth. He doesn't make anything simple - or simplistic. The Wreckage shows with profound insight that nothing's fair in love and war."
--National Post

"A tale of love and loss, fear and prejudice and hate. . . . Crummey has delved into the complexity of the 20th century, revealing some of the most destructive events, both in Newfoundland and the world. . . . As the images [he] so vividly conjures up return to the mind at the end of the novel, the subtleties of the story deepen even
further."
--Quill & Quire

"If there's a better Canadian novel published this year, I'll be surprised."
-- Robert Wiersema, The Vancouver Sun

Praise for River Thieves
"A remarkable achievement. . . . This is powerful writing."
--Charles Frazier, author of Cold Mountain

"This multi-faceted jewel of a book is probably the finest Canadian novel of the year."
--National Post

"Michael Crummey is a tremendously gifted writer."
--Alistair MacLeod, author of No Great Mischief

About the Author:

Born and raised in Newfoundland, Michael Crummey spent his early years moving from one mining town to another. He began in Buchans in the province's interior then moved to Wabush, Labrador - a small town near the Quebec border. He was the second of four boys in a particularly tight-knit and raucous household.

Self-conscious of his literary aspirations, Crummey left for St. John's to study English at Memorial University. Undertaking an English degree was, he once reported, an attempt "to feel connected to the whole idea of writing without admitting to anybody what I wanted to do was write." Admitting your weakness, however, is the first step towards recovery. Crummey began writing poetry and in 1986 won his first award at Memorial University. In 1994, after years of publishing in magazines he won the inaugural Bronwen Wallace Award for Poetry, a national award for writers not yet published in book form. Appropriately he followed up with his first book of poetry Arguments with Gravity in 1996. Emergency Roadside Assistance and Hard Light came shortly after and his latest poetry title Salvage, appeared in 2002.

Not satisfied with poetry alone, Crummey tried his hand at fiction. It was a wise decision. In 1994, his first published fiction was a runner up in the 1994 Prism International Short Fiction Contest, and a story was selected for the Journey Prize Anthology in 1998. Flesh & Blood, his first collection of stories, appeared the same year.

His most notable achievemen - both critical and commercial - came with River Thieves published in 2001. Crummey wrote of his experience writing the novel, "I would have to admit I had no real idea what I was doing through most of it," and swore he would never attempt another. His blind effort was not without reward. The novel was a national bestseller and short-listed for the Giller Prize. It also made its way to publishers in the US, UK, and Europe.

Crummey happily broke his vow not to write another novel, and The Wreckage was published in August 2005.

Crummey lives in St. John's, Newfoundland.

From the Hardcover edition.

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ISBN 10:  038566060X ISBN 13:  9780385660600
Publisher: Doubleday Canada, 2005
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