Debbie's Reviews > Our Homesick Songs

Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper
Rate this book
Clear rating

by
8665845
's review

liked it
bookshelves: esil-recs, cultural, netgalley, sibling-love-and-hate, family-drama

3.5 Atmosphere-out-the-ying-yang stars

Remember the Dick and Jane primers from grade school? Well, I do, and the dialogue in this novel all sounded like See Jane Run. The rest of the book, about a dying sea town in Newfoundland, has a LOT of power. There’s fishing, singing, freezing, and an intense, forlorn family. But I couldn’t stop feeling like I was just learning to read.

Joy Jar

-Take away the dialogue, and there was poetry happening. Good poetry: easy on the eyes, easy on the mind.

-Where did the author come up with THIS? That’s what I kept asking myself. It’s a super creative, unique story.

-Atmosphere out the ying-yang, an ethereal vibe. It’s a stark stark life for this Newfoundland family who is trying to afford living in their dying town by the sea. Vivid scenes: the abandoned homes, the brutal landscape, the severe cold, the fish nets, the sea. And I could feel the isolation. The atmosphere is the selling point, as far as I’m concerned.

-Intense, well-drawn characters. Even though there wasn’t a lot of talk, you knew this was one intense family. I like intense, even if it’s quiet.

-A few fascinating fish facts at the end of the book. Fish can communicate, who knew? Even though I hate non-fiction to creep into any fictional story, this bit of info entertained me. See the P.S. for a little story that explains why the fish facts tickled my gills.

Complaint Board

-See Jane Run! I already talked about this. The dialogue is just too stilted and sparse. I imagine some people do talk that way, all staccato, people of few words, but they sure wouldn’t be in my inner circle. I like gabbers. I think the author went overboard with the “show, don’t tell” rule. The style kept me from feeling emotional about any of the characters.

Sometimes there are full sentences but a lot of the time the conversations are monosyllabic. Here’s a sample; one of many:

“Wow, said Finn.
Yep, said Cora. It’s way better than here.
Is it?
Yep. I hate it here, said Cora.
You do?
Yep.”

See Jane run (doesn’t it just fit perfectly here?)

-Sparse city. The story was told so simply, I would have killed for a complex sentence or two. It just wasn’t my style. I like the story to flow, not be all jammed up and stilty. And sometimes the sparse style seemed self-conscious.

-Come on, freezing water kills. Several times, a character fell in the water—and each time hypothermia didn’t kill them. These were sub-zero temps, folks. Can people really survive that? I have my doubts.

-Fairy tales and folklore, anyone? Well, I don’t like to be served the stuff, actually, so save your little treats for a more interested soul. There were occasional mermaids, fairy tales, and folklore, which made me back away. It wasn’t overbearing—I could tolerate it—it just didn’t interest me.

-No sing-alongs for me! Well, I wasn’t invited, actually, but I wouldn’t have joined in if they paid me. The simplistic songs, which appeared entirely too often (like they were all important), didn’t do a thing for me, other than to bore or annoy me. But when I read the author’s note, where she went into the interesting history of these ancient songs, I decided maybe I was missing something, maybe I needed to hear them and I’d change my mind. So yes, I went to iTunes and found them. I obsessively listened to them, over and over, many different singers and styles—I tried so hard to like them! Now that’s devotion, lol. It didn’t work. I tried to listen to them with new ears, but my old ears weren’t having any of it. You can’t change your tastes, period. I should have known better.

-Fancy meeting you in the forest! Okay, there are a zillion acres of forest, and two of the characters (strangers) run into each other in the woods? I don’t think so! I just couldn’t buy that huge coincidence. The meeting wasn’t critical to the plot so I don’t understand why the author threw that scene in anyway.

The bottom line: I was never hot to pick the book up; too many nits kept flying around in my head. I just wanted it to be over so I could start a new book. But I love that the author painted a vivid picture of the coastline of Newfoundland and the people who lived in a ghost town there—it was powerful. I will remember the feeling, the immersion into another world.

Read other reviews, please, because you shouldn’t just hear about this book from a person with a big Complaint Board—I’m in the minority for sure. It’s a good book; the style of the story just didn’t match me.

Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.

P.S. Why I appreciated the few little fish facts in the book: I tween-sit at a house where there is a big fish tank. For a year, I’ve been watching this huge, majestic, mellow, angel fish glide side to side. So beauteous. The last time I was there, a whole different story. The angel fish had laid at least 50 teensy clear-colored fish eggs on a big leaf near the top of the tank. My friend the mom, before leaving, lifted the tank top to feed the fish, and she was accidentally near the leaf with all the little eggs. The angel fish charged her, and then it actually bit her finger, twice! She yelped! She said they are toothless so it was like a hard pinch. The kid tried it, same story! (Why he wanted to get bitten is beyond me, but hey, he’s 14.) And mama Angel started charging at the glass as it saw my finger outside the tank—I removed my finger from the glass because I was afraid she’d kill herself, hitting the glass like that. I was not going to have her die on my watch. (And no, I was not about to stick my finger in the tank and get bitten by a fish! Because I’m not 14.) Who knew there was a fish version of a mama bear? Who knew that a mama fish protects her eggs!? Blew my mind!
66 likes · flag

Sign into Goodreads to see if any of your friends have read Our Homesick Songs.
Sign In »

Reading Progress

August 5, 2018 – Shelved
August 5, 2018 – Shelved as: to-read
August 5, 2018 – Shelved as: esil-recs
August 5, 2018 – Shelved as: cultural
August 10, 2018 – Started Reading
August 10, 2018 – Shelved as: netgalley
August 19, 2018 – Finished Reading
August 24, 2018 – Shelved as: sibling-love-and-hate
August 24, 2018 – Shelved as: family-drama

Comments Showing 1-46 of 46 (46 new)

dateDown arrow    newest »

Angela M Debbie, I wish you had loved it more but I’m still glad you gave it 3.5 stars . I have to admit I loved the writing 😊. I think I was especially moved because it is based on true events of the collapse of the cod fish industry and this family and the others in their plight represented what happened there . Great review- always entertaining!


message 2: by Jaline (new) - added it

Jaline Aw, I'm sorry you had to haul your Complaint Board out of storage, Debbie, but I enjoyed reading your review - especially your P.S. 😁


message 3: by Susanne (new)

Susanne Strong Nice review Debbie! Sorry that this done didn't quite hit the mark! Onward!


message 4: by Holly (new)

Holly  B Hope your next is a five star!


Debbie Angela M wrote: "Debbie, I wish you had loved it more but I’m still glad you gave it 3.5 stars . I have to admit I loved the writing 😊. I think I was especially moved because it is based on true events of the colla..."

Thanks, Angela! I wish I had loved it more, too! I appreciate the book, but didn’t like the execution of it. I agree, the fact that it’s based on a true events makes it more impressive and heart-wrenching.


Debbie Jaline wrote: "Aw, I'm sorry you had to haul your Complaint Board out of storage, Debbie, but I enjoyed reading your review - especially your P.S. 😁"

Thanks, Jaline. I was due for a Complaint Board appearance, don’t you think? And at least I did enjoy lots about the book.

Re my P.S.— That angel fish sure had me going! Another weird thing, a male fish has to fertilize her eggs after they are laid. There is no male in the tank, yet mamma has no idea her eggs won’t hatch and is insanely protective.

Weeks before, there had been a male, who died. My friend, who has studied fish, saw both male and female eating her earlier batch of eggs. The male apparantely didnt know he was supposed to fertilize them. My friend thinks the male couldn’t digest the eggs and he died. Sorry, lol, I got carried away with the fish story!


Debbie Susanne wrote: "Nice review Debbie! Sorry that this done didn't quite hit the mark! Onward!"

Thanks, Susanne! Onward indeed. Plenty of books in the sea!


Debbie Holly wrote: "Hope your next is a five star!"

Thanks, Holly! Me too!


Cathrine ☯️ Luv the fish story! "But hey, he’s 14." 😆


Debbie Cathrine ☯️ wrote: "Luv the fish story! "But hey, he’s 14." 😆"

Thanks, Cathrine! My friends (where I tween-sat) have just moved back to the Czech Republic, so alas, I’ll never see the mama bear angel fish again! Worse, I’ll never see the family again!


Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader Lovely review, Debbie! Happy you enjoyed the atmosphere of this one! Enjoyed the fish story too!


Debbie Jennifer ~ TarHeelReader wrote: "Lovely review, Debbie! Happy you enjoyed the atmosphere of this one! Enjoyed the fish story too!"

Thank you, Jennifer! I’ll always associate this book with the crazed angel fish, although I will think of the atmosphere of the book, too!


message 13: by Melissa (new)

Melissa Such an entertaining review, Debbie! As always, I appreciate your honesty. 😊


message 14: by Joe (new)

Joe Valdez Debbie wrote: "I was never hot to pick the book up; too many nits kept flying around in my head. I just wanted it to be over so I could start a new book."

Wonderful review, Debbie. I'm not the demographic for this one. I don't mind an exotic setting but I'm demanding when it comes to story and characters. Your nit picks are very well observed. Characters wandering the forest run into each other on soap operas a lot! Between that and the dialogue, the writing seems a bit clunky. Keep these book reports coming. You could review an animal identification sign at the zoo and I'd be enthralled.


Debbie Melissa wrote: "Such an entertaining review, Debbie! As always, I appreciate your honesty. 😊"

Thanks so much, Melissa!


Debbie Joe wrote: "Debbie wrote: "I was never hot to pick the book up; too many nits kept flying around in my head. I just wanted it to be over so I could start a new book."

Wonderful review, Debbie. I'm not the dem..."


Thanks, Joe. You always brighten my day with your compliments! I am currently writing an instruction manual for installing a towel rack; will keep you posted on publication date, lol. There are a couple of loose screws, but I think they’re in my head : ).

People absolutely loved this book and its style. I, on the other hand, yearned for long sentences. People run into each other in forests on soap operas? I knew there was a good reason to avoid the soaps!


message 17: by Zoeytron (new)

Zoeytron Love your review, Debbie. So much fun! Your P.S. was a trip, I would have guessed that a fish would lay its eggs and count itself done with it. Interesting. Tickled your gills. . . .Bahahaha!


message 18: by Hanneke (last edited Aug 25, 2018 04:24PM) (new)

Hanneke Great review, Debbie. Sounds like an enjoyable read. Angel fish are pretty aggressive when you are scuba diving. You really have to watch out for them because they do attack! Always! Also trigger fish attack when they have babies, one bit a piece out of my fin. I was glad it wasn't my leg! When diving, I was more apprehensive of angel fish or trigger fish than sharks.


Diane S ☔ Quite enjoyed your review, Debbie. Too funny about the fish!!


Pamela I read the Bernice Morgan series, Random Passage and Waiting for Time. I loved them both as they unequivocally depicted the era and the hardship as first ‘landers on the rock’. And I suspect they did talk a bit of ‘Dick and Jane’ to a modern day observer, such as we are. So I do ‘get’ what you were intimating but it may firm part of the story to be told.
I absolutely love your reviews Debbie and quite often I’m aligned to your sentiments.
I’m going to give this one a go as I have a soft spot for the Newfoundlanders and the hardships fought to survive back then and, yet again, during the cod loss plight. I’m looking forward to the read.


message 21: by Esil (last edited Aug 26, 2018 06:07AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Esil Fabulous review. I’m sorry you didn’t like it more and that you had to haul out the complaint board, Debbie. Like Angela, I really liked the writing. It had a dreamy quality that for me matched the absurdity of trying to live in a place without fish and people.

Crazy fish story btw. Mamma bears all the way down the food chain, who knew?


message 22: by Betsy (last edited Aug 26, 2018 07:23AM) (new) - added it

Betsy Robinson Glad to have your opinion on this. I'm going to take a look and see what I think because I loved her previous book, Etta and Otto and Russell and James (but suspect you wouldn't like this one either). From your quoted material, I gather she doesn't use quotation marks in this one either. That was my one beef. I hate this fad. But as to the pithy dialogue, I wonder if that is actually inherent to the region. I read another book (The Shipping News) that I loathed, that most people love, from this region, and it was the same thing.


message 23: by Tammy (new)

Tammy Thanks for saving my reading time, Debbie. From your description, the dialogue would make me unbearably cranky


Cheri I loved this for all the reasons you loved this, Debbie, I loved the writing, and the things that bothered you, I noticed but didn't bother me. I agree with you about the songs, although I know them and love most of them, I felt that it got to be too much. I loved your fish story, though! Wowza! Crazy stuff!


message 25: by JanB (new)

JanB I'm sitting here kicking myself for clicking the 'read now' button on NG because everything in your complaint jar would be in mine...


Debbie Zoeytron wrote: "Love your review, Debbie. So much fun! Your P.S. was a trip, I would have guessed that a fish would lay its eggs and count itself done with it. Interesting. Tickled your gills. . . .Bahahaha!"

Thanks, Zoey! I know, the aggressive, protective fish was a total trip. Plus the eggs weren’t even fertilized—you’d think she would have known that!


Debbie Hanneke wrote: "Great review, Debbie. Sounds like an enjoyable read. Angel fish are pretty aggressive when you are scuba diving. You really have to watch out for them because they do attack! Always! Also trigger f..."

Thanks, Hanneke! I had no idea that sweet little aquarium fishies could be so aggressive! She had been so docile until she laid eggs. I’m glad the trigger fish bit your fin, not your leg, too. Funny that you dread angle and trigger fish more than sharks. That’s bad! All new world for me, this world of fish!


Debbie Diane S ☔ wrote: "Quite enjoyed your review, Debbie. Too funny about the fish!!"

Thanks so much, Diane! Yeah, the fish attack was a real education.


Debbie Pamela wrote: "I read the Bernice Morgan series, Random Passage and Waiting for Time. I loved them both as they unequivocally depicted the era and the hardship as first ‘landers on the rock’. And I suspect they d..."

I’m betting you’ll love the book. It’s very good, and will be especially good since you’ve read similar books and are interested in the history. I should have mentioned in my review that I did think the language was realistic. I lived in a (non-dying) fishing town for five years, and the conversations were terse and staccato among the fishermen. People of few words, etc. The book is excellent; the style just didn’t work for me and the dialogue bugged me. I do want people to read it; I just had to be honest and say it didn’t work for me.


Debbie Esil wrote: "Fabulous review. I’m sorry you didn’t like it more and that you had to haul out the complaint board, Debbie. Like Angela, I really liked the writing. It had a dreamy quality that for me matched the..."

Thanks, Esil. I loved the descriptions, the narrative in general--they were so poetic! And I do agree they were dreamy. I just got annoyed by the dialogue mostly. I really wanted to have a better reaction to the book; there was so much I did like about it. And I think the language was authentic even though I didn’t like listening to it.


Debbie Betsy wrote: "Glad to have your opinion on this. I'm going to take a look and see what I think because I loved her previous book, Etta and Otto and Russell and James (but suspect you wouldn't lik..."

Thanks, Betsy. I think you’ll like this one. It was excellent. The style
and the dialogue just didn’t jibe with me. And I agree, I think the language is inherent to the area. I lived in a seaside town where there were fishermen, and they were people of few words, like in this story. I wish I had enjoyed the book more. Yes, generally no quotation makes, but that didn’t bug me. I abandoned Shipping News; it was bad news for me too!


Debbie Tammy wrote: "Thanks for saving my reading time, Debbie. From your description, the dialogue would make me unbearably cranky"

Thanks, Tammy. Ha, that’s a good way of saying it—the talking made me cranky! But I keep saying—most people loved this one, so be sure to read the reviews that don’t have a Complaint Board!


Debbie Cheri wrote: "I loved this for all the reasons you loved this, Debbie, I loved the writing, and the things that bothered you, I noticed but didn't bother me. I agree with you about the songs, although I know the..."

Thanks, Cheri, I’m so jealous that people loved the book! I wanted to! I did like it—a 3.5 isn’t a bad rating. I debated long and hard whether to go with a 3 or a 4, but I realized I just couldn’t go with a 4. Funny how If you like a book, you can overlook some things. Happens to me often. Instead, here, the bad stuff stood out. I loved that the book made me think of my recent encounter with the aggressive and beautiful angel fish!


Debbie JanB wrote: "I'm sitting here kicking myself for clicking the 'read now' button on NG because everything in your complaint jar would be in mine..."

Hi Jan! I do think you might like this one. It IS poetic. Don’t let my review worry you. I just have trouble with folklore, stilted dialogue (though I do think it’s authentic), and “quiet” reads.


message 35: by Julie (new)

Julie Outstanding review, Debbie!! Sorry it fell short, though.


Debbie Julie wrote: "Outstanding review, Debbie!! Sorry it fell short, though."

Thanks, Julie. It only fell a little short, lol.


message 37: by Arah-Lynda (new)

Arah-Lynda Great review Deb. Fantastic little fish story at the end.


message 38: by Deanna (new)

Deanna Excellent review, Debbie!!


Debbie Arah-Lynda wrote: "Great review Deb. Fantastic little fish story at the end."

Thanks, Arah-Lynda! That aggressive angel fish blew my mind.


Debbie Deanna wrote: "Excellent review, Debbie!!"

Thanks, Deanna!


Holly R W I'm reading the book now and like it. While I may forget in the future the particulars of the story, I'll remember your experience with the mama angel fish.


Debbie Holly wrote: "I'm reading the book now and like it. While I may forget in the future the particulars of the story, I'll remember your experience with the mama angel fish."

Glad you're liking it. It really is so atmospheric! Ha, funny that you'll remember my angel fish story. I don't think I'll ever forget it either!


Lindsay - Traveling Sister Debbie - once again, you and I are at the outlier table - I didn't love this either. Just didn't work for me on so many levels. I completely agree with all your points. Love your fish story at the end - I had no idea a fish would be so protective - wow!


Debbie Lindsay - Traveling Sister wrote: "Debbie - once again, you and I are at the outlier table - I didn't love this either. Just didn't work for me on so many levels. I completely agree with all your points. Love your fish story at the ..."

Ah, a kindred spirit! Yay! I'm glad I'm not alone. The only thing I'll remember about the book is the angel fish story that happened in real life! Totally blew my mind that the mama fish was protecting her eggy-poos!


Pamela I just finished this one and, although I did enjoy it and agree that it was a super creative storyline, I think I would also have to agree, in general, with your overall summation. But I was a bit more generous at 3.75 stars. 😜


Debbie Pamela wrote: "I just finished this one and, although I did enjoy it and agree that it was a super creative storyline, I think I would also have to agree, in general, with your overall summation. But I was a bit ..."

Glad you understand. It was for sure a creative story. The style just wasn't my cuppa.


back to top