Thursday, January 21, 2010

The Bay of Love and Sorrows

The Bay of Love and Sorrows by David Adams Richards
Hardcover, 307 pages
Arcade Publishing, 1998
ISBN-13: 9781559706506
very highly recommended


The novel begins as the once-strong friendship between Michael Skid, the privileged young son of a judge from town, and farmhand Tommie Donnerel collapses under the weight of a bitter misunderstanding. As Michael sets out to prove something to himself and others, he becomes drawn into the company of the beautiful and determined Madonna Brassaurd and her brother, Silver. The three are soon seduced by the glamour of Everette Hutch, a charismatic but violent man, whose latest scheme appears certain to result in tragedy. Bridging the decent world of Tommie Donnerel and the darker realm of the Brassaurds and Everette Hutch is Karrie Smith. Home from college for the summer, Karrie's deep longing for a more exciting life makes her especially vulnerable to a world she does not completely understand.

My thoughts:

David Adams Richards' Mercy Among the Children was really my top book of 2009. It was so incredible that I hesitated over reading another one of Richards' books. The Bay of Love and Sorrows is the powerful tale of ambition and betrayal in a small New Brunswick town in the 1970s. Karrie Smith and Tom Donnerel are sweethearts who, after her first year of college, have a falling out. Karrie gives in to her attraction to Tom's former friend, Michael Skid who lures Karrie into a manipulative and loveless relationship. Michael, in turn, is manipulated by a drug dealer, Everette Hutch. Those who look to Michael to help and/or protect them are disappointed to learn how incapable he really is of taking a stand.

Richards's is simply an incredible writer. I know he's won awards in Canada, but, really, the man deserves a wider audience. The characters are well written but flawed; the plot is tightly defined. The intensity of the story was, at times overwhelming. You could see destruction coming, they could see it coming, and yet no one stopped it. Richards firm grasp of and insight to the human condition is, at times, heart breaking. I liked how one Amazon reviewer put it: "Although the reader will have affinity with the characters' very human flaws, Richards never allows us to get too close and I believe he does that deliberately; this fiction takes an in-depth look at the shallowness of living on the edge and the waste that it is."
Very Highly Recommended - but a book full of sorrow


The house was very warm, had a miserable quality permeating it, which Karrie herself had understood from early youth. It was not that the house, with its pink shutters and wainscoting, was a violent house. It was the absence of affection. pg. 6

And then suddenly a small flame of angry thought flickered inside him, as he turned towards Arron Brook. Because, having known Michael for three years, things remained unresolved between them. pg 13

Thinking of all of this, of Michael's cavalier attitude towards Karrie, of the pettiness of the article, of the meanness about the suit, Tom frowned, spat, and felt homesick even thought he was so near his home. pg. 17

The tree of them, at one time or another, had relied upon Tom for advice. But they had drifted away from him, each in their own way, and had come independently to the same conclusion - that Tom was too reasonable, too practical, and youth never had time to be reasonable. Still, he was the only man Madonna trusted. pg. 17-18

These discussions invariably worked their way around to the nature of power, and what made him, Everette, violent. He was fascinated by his own violence, and always held the belief that he would commit a great crime, that he was a man who didn't like to be violent, but could not help it, since so many people got in his way. Any other reasoning was beyond him. Everette's most telling trait was his conviction that everything else was beyond him. As if, lacking compassion, he proved himself. pg. 20

"Madonna and Silver - look up to you a awful lot. They are always talking about how good you are to them, and how you are helping them out.... so you are.... a real blessing to them. They had nothin in their lives - and look up to you. I mean it would be real good for them if you could help them see things the right way." pg. 25

Already his relationship with Everette Hutch had created problems for this young brother and sister, who had made a pact of loyalty with each other when they were left on their own. pg. 28

Tom felt that nothing would be askew now if he and Michael had remained friends. But unless they came to him, the three of them would not be able to stop until something desperate happened. pg. 31

What Michael did not understand, what Silver and Madonna and possibly Tom Donnerel did, was that Everette Hutch kept tapes on certain of those whom he considered his well-to-do friends - for future embezzlement and blackmail - such as the tape he was wearing at the moment, inside his left boot, as he smiled. pg. 40

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