Krista's Reviews > Our Homesick Songs

Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper
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Rating: 4.5 stars, rounding down to 4 stars

Emma Hooper has written another unusual gem of a book in, Our Homesick Songs. Hooper’s earlier book, Etta and Otto and Russell and James was published in 2014, and was greeted with critical acclaim. I feel like this book will receive the same acclaim. It at least receives that acclaim from me!

The book opens in 1993 on a remote part of the Newfoundland, Canada coast. The town of Big Running has pretty much been abandoned because the cod fishery has been decimated by big factory fishing ships. With a touch of magical realism, Finn (aged 10) and his sister Cora (aged 14) talk about the singing of the mermaids. The book switches back and forth between the early 1970’s and the early 1990’s. In the 1970’s segments, we learn how Aiden and Martha Connor grew up and fell in love. Theirs was an unconventional courtship, in an unconventional setting. In the 1990’s segments, we learn how the four people in this family are now individually coping (or not coping) with the loss of their livelihood and way of life.

Told in spare and haunting segments, in the 1990’s stories, the reader sees Finn trying to bring back the fish to Big Running, and Cora trying to bring her family (or at least her brother) to a new place. Aiden and Martha are just trying to hold it together. They switch off working in the oil fields in Alberta. They each work one month on and one month off, so there is one parent physically at home at all times. Slowly, the family structure and routines dissolve, leaving each family member to sort out the current circumstances on their own.

I think I felt most keenly for Finn. His accordion teacher Mrs. Callaghan was an anchor for him and told him fabulous stories of the founding of the fisheries in Newfoundland. From there he came up with a plan to entice the fish to return that seemed so terribly logical in a 10 year-old brain, and so sad at the same time. He was left pretty much to his own devices once his parents starting working in Alberta. This sister Cora took another tack to cope, but it was just as poignant in its own way.

The book doesn’t not conform to conventional grammar and punctuation rules. It took me awhile to get used to the lack of quotation marks that normally help me understand when (and which) characters are talking. But from the angst of watching Aiden decide if he could announce his love for Martha, because he was living with the generational legacy of ‘All Connors are cheats’. To seeing how Martha and her three sisters coped with the early death of their parents, I was soon able to follow along without the aid of the quotation marks.

Sometimes the pace of the book slowed to a crawl. At first I was frustrated with that, but eventually I came to realize that it matched the pace of life in the remote, almost deserted Eastern Canadian landscape. I savored the description of the landscape, and the local traditions while I mourned the loss of the way of life. Music is featured prominently in this book; from Finn’s accordion lessons, to Cora’s violin; and always sprinkled throughout the book are the mermaid songs which are really old sea shanties handed down generation to generation. Will these songs have the power to bring back the old way of life?

How do we cope with change as individuals, and as a society? This book gives you a glimpse into possible answers to these questions by presenting an in-depth exploration of the many ways this family copes with the changes. Well done Emma Hooper!

‘Thank-You’ to NetGalley; Simon & Schuster Publishing; and the author, Emma Hooper; for providing a free ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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Reading Progress

June 29, 2018 – Shelved
June 29, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
June 29, 2018 – Shelved as: kindle-netgalley
June 29, 2018 – Shelved as: setting-canada
June 29, 2018 – Shelved as: fiction
August 1, 2018 – Started Reading
August 3, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-books-read
August 3, 2018 – Shelved as: 2018-netgalley-reviewed
August 3, 2018 – Shelved as: coming-of-age
August 3, 2018 – Shelved as: environment
August 3, 2018 – Shelved as: literary-fiction
August 3, 2018 – Shelved as: setting-canada-newfoundland
August 3, 2018 – Shelved as: setting-canada-alberta
August 3, 2018 – Shelved as: time-1950-1999
August 3, 2018 –
August 4, 2018 – Finished Reading
August 7, 2018 – Shelved as: magical-realism
August 20, 2018 – Shelved as: reviewed-for-netgalley

Comments Showing 1-8 of 8 (8 new)

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Angela M Terrific review, Krista. Loved this one !

Krista Thanks Angela. I wavered between 4 and 5 stars. I hope I jumped the right way. I enjoyed it too!

Sharon Metcalf This was an excellent review of a great book Krista. From memory I did the exact same wavering as you over my star rating. Reading your review and thinking back enhanced this for me. Must try her earlier book.

Krista Thanks Sharon! I haven't read her earlier book either. I sent it to a Canadian friend of mine though, and she really enjoyed it.

Krista Thanks Jennifer!!

message 7: by Kate (new)

Kate Baxter Lovely review; thank you!

Krista Thanks Katie!

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