Lindsay and I read Our Homesick Songs with three of our Traveling Sisters and we all ended up in the same coulee with this one except for Lindsay who was left feeling this was not the right choice for her.
I instantly connected to the setting in this story as I am Canadian and familiar with both settings in this story. I love the feeling I got while reading this story and it reminded me of that haunting and mysterious the sea can be and I often wonder what secrets it holds. In this story, one of the secrets the sea holds is the mystery to the fish that disappear leaving a small town devastated and desperate as they are left with no industry.
There are some connections to some Canadian history here. In 1992 there was a collapse in the cod fishing industry and Canada declared a moratorium, ending the region’s 500-year run with the Northern Cod due to overfishing. This left the fishing industry and communities devastated.
There is something mystical and charming to this story that had us loving how the music, atmosphere, and environment came to life and became like characters for us.
This is a slow paced story that might not be for every reader. The story is told in a such a lyrical way and there is no quotation. For Lindsay, she struggled with connecting to the characters and this story.
I recommend to readers looking for something different here in a story where the focus is on connecting with the characters through the setting and the elements to the story
Thank you to NetGalley, Simon & Schuster and Emma Hooper for a copy to read and review.
This is the story of a family: Aiden, Martha and their children Cora and Finn and the dying fishing town of Big Running. As the town and fishing situation grows more desperate Aiden and Martha are forced to work inland and away from their children in alternating months. Their love for their town and their family never wavers, but the distance grows difficult for everyone.
Finn, the youngest child, feels desperate for his home and for his family. As houses are abandoned, neighbors move away and life as he knows it crumbles beneath him this desperation only grows. Finn seeks solace in his accordion teacher Mrs.Callaghan’s stories, songs and tales.
This novel is steeped in magical realism, lyrical writing and quiet contemplation. Vivid detail and attention is given to the environment of Big Running. At first, I struggled to connect to this story and these characters but as I read on I realized I’d gotten the entire thing wrong. Aiden, Martha, Cora and Finn weren’t the characters we were supposed to be connecting to. Hooper was much too clever for that – the environment, the town, hope and desperation were the characters driving this story.
Music plays an incredible role here and that is evident not only in writing style but in the content of the story. There are songs that date back centuries for this village that are discussed and contemplated over. These are melancholy songs, happy songs, sad songs, songs for lost loved ones, lost hopes and found dreams – they are homesick songs.
Because everyone did. Everyone believed, everyone knew, that mermaids were the sea-dead, singing their love back to you. If it wasn’t too loud with rain or waves, you could hear them in the wind, most nights.
This switches between two time periods – the “present” (what we are given as to be happening now, but is actually 1993) and the past showing us the backstory of Martha and Aiden. I found their love story to be effortlessly charming and heartwarming. I really enjoyed being a part of their struggles and triumphs and that proposal! *swooning*
In the end, this loses 1.5 stars for me because the stylistic choices Hooper made were not my personal favorite. The conversations were a bit choppy for me and there was not a lot of distinguishing between conversation and story progression. It was a very simplistic style format that didn’t speak to me personally, but I think could appeal to someone who maybe has a bit more literary prowess than I do!
While there were some things that weren’t my personal cup of tea and family sagas are not normally what I’m drawn to I think anyone with an appreciation for language would enjoy this.
Finn lifted his accordion and stepped into the water, feet cold on wet stone. He walked out through the low waves and the others followed until they were all up to their knees. OK, said Finn,
and he took a deep breath
and Aiden took a deep breath
and Martha held out the phone
and Sophie lifted her beater
and Richard put his mouth to his horn
and Mrs.Callaghan pulled open her bellows
and Cora lifted her bow
and the stars shone down
and the green lights shone up
and the flags pulled and pulled in the wind
and all around them in the water,
was dark and empty and waiting.
Thank you to NetGalley for a copy of this ARC.
Have you read Our Homesick Songs? Have we convinced you to add it to your list? We would love to hear from you! Drop us a comment!