The Innocents is the coming-of-age story of Evered and Ada Best, young siblings who find themselves orphaned and alone in a remote, isolated cove in northern Newfoundland after their parents and infant sister succumb to fatal illnesses. In true Crummey fashion, the tale is set in a rural, bygone place that is simultaneously so brutal and bewitching that the island itself becomes a complex, unruly character.
The story traces the siblings’ bone-tiring bid to stave off death as they grow up in the only place they know as home. Left with little more than an unreliable skiff and a set of memorized idioms to guide them (“A body must bear what can’t be helped”), the siblings battle starvation, the relentless cruelty of rain, cold and winter, and, eventually, a foreign form of isolation: the unexplained onset of puberty. Crummey deftly portrays the physical elements of adolescence as yet another mystifying imposition of nature, but one that both alienates the Best siblings and irrevocably binds them*
*Excerpt from The Globe and Mail
From Jill: Erin, thank you. I enjoyed your insightful and informative presentation very much. It is a story that stayed with me for a long time. I became enriched and learned so much more than I had read into the story from everyone’s individual thoughts and comments. However much we related to life, as it was, indigenous, biblical and otherwise, I felt our comments seem to weave and flow through situations in the book and into our own personal dealings with life, integrity, survival and compassion. To me, the core of the story was survival, compassion and strength.
From Ann: Thank you from me too for choosing a book that I might not have otherwise read. I read it a while ago but as with others it has stayed with me. The conversation always makes me think of things I never considered and I spend more time rethinking my original impressions.
From Bev: Crummy is such a treasure to the people and the history and culture of Newfoundland. I always learn so much from reading him. Never an easy read. He does not shy away from history. Past histories are often brutal. His characters show such resolve, resilience and humanity. How will history remember us? Erin, Thanks for leading us through the complexities. I was going to ask Karen about her thinking about the book as a fable. I hadn’t thought about it that way. A book and author that stays with you.
From Moira: Thank you Erin For guiding us through the discussion on some pretty challenging themes. I am so glad you chose the book because although I read it some time ago, I enjoyed thinking and reading about it again. Also enjoyed thinking about it from a different viewpoint as Karen pointed out when she spoke about their landscape as a paradise. Thanks to everyone for your insights on a complex but beautifully written novel.
From Jane: Thank you Erin for leading this month’s book club meeting – a challenging book with disturbing themes led to such a free ranging discussion about the place (rugged and beautiful Newfoundland), families, settlement, resiliency, indigenous peoples, religion, fables, taboos, and the sustainability of the earth. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing the different conversations and views about the book.
From Jeanne: Thank you Erin for hosting a great discussion. I echo the previous comments! I always enjoy hearing the different perspectives on what we read and there were several that opened up thoughts for me about The Innocents that I’m still pondering… one of them being communication and another being where/how the concept of something being a ‘sin’ gets defined and what happens to relationships when we then judge ourselves and others on this measure. It seems that communications break down once someone feels they have something to hide, no matter how old they are or natural an instinct it is.
From Karen: Thanks Erin for choosing The Innocents and guiding our discussion with your presentation. This was a novel with many levels of meaning and interpretation as evidenced by the group’s comments. A great choice for the book club