Thursday, July 29, 2010

The Sisters From Hardscrabble Bay - Beverly Jensen

A tale of two sisters over seventy years that recovers the vibrant and unforgettable voice of Beverly Jensen.

In 1916, Idella and Avis Hillock live on the edge of a chilly bluff in New Brunswick-a hardscrabble world of potato farms and lobster traps, rough men, hard work, and baffling beauty. From "Gone," the heartbreaking story of their mother's medical crisis in childbirth, to the darkly comic "Wake," which follows the grown siblings' catastrophic efforts to escort their father, "Wild Bill" Hillock's body to his funeral, the stories of Idella and Avis offer a compelling and wry vision of two remarkable women. The vivid cast includes Idella's philandering husband Edward, her bewilderingly difficult mother-in-law- and Avis, whose serial romantic disasters never quell her irrepressible spirit. Jensen's work evokes a time gone by and reads like an instant American classic.

Beverly Jensen died of cancer at the age of forty-nine without publishing her work. Since her death, her fiction has been championed by a dedicated group of supporters, including Stephen King and Joyce Carol Oates.
(Synopsis taken from goodreads.)

Title: The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay
Author: Beverly Jensen
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: June 24, 2010
My Rating: 4/5

The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay chronicles the lives of both Idella, and Avis Hillock. The book is sectioned off into snippets, and there is a span of 4 to 5 years, or longer between each story. The book itself spans roughly 70 years. It primarily follows the life of Idella, but we do get to read from Avis' viewpoint from time to time.

I found myself immersed in the story at the beginning. I really enjoyed the writing style and found that I was reading fairly quickly. I loved how independent Idella was, and how she wanted to get away from the life she was living. However, midway through, the book started to drag a bit. I'm not sure if it was anything in particular, or if circumstances in the book warranted the story to slowly unfold. It then picked up again closer to the end. I found that I enjoyed the stories more so when the sisters were together, though I didn't particularly like Avis' character. I found her too crass, and didn't always appreciate how she treated Idella. Such is sisterly love though.
This book was published posthumously, and is a tribute to Jensen's writing and family. It's a shame that she couldn't see her dreams realized. However, her family will always be able to hear her voice through this novel.
All in all, an interesting read. The trouble that Idella and Avis get into make this a heartwarming and sad read. Some may not enjoy the slow pace, but the antics that the girls get up to will have your head shaking, and your lips turning up into a rueful smile.

Disclaimer: I won this book through Penguin Canada's Exclusive Reads program.

1 comment:

brizmus said...

I love books about sisters - this sounds intriguing and lovely.