The sophomore novel...is a lovely homage to Newfoundland culture, a story about storytellers told with a beguiling simplicity. Lovely and lyrical, it weaves together multi-generational tales, but the main narrative unfolds largely through the eyes of 11-year-old Finn. An ode to the folklore of The Rock, Hooper’s work brims with mermaids and music and memory, as any good Newfoundland story must, and there is no shortage of eccentric characters ... Rooted as it is in the mystical tales of this mythical land, Our Homesick Songs feels like a come-from-away version of the island, celebrating its charm but not necessarily steeped in the salty brine of island culture. Where Our Homesick Songs is most authentic is in a storyline all too common to any culture or place—the struggle of Martha and Aidan to keep their fairy tale love alive through the ups and downs of real life.
For all the bleak desolation and underlying sadness that informs the Connors’ existence, there is a stronger sense of joy and wonder that infuses their magical thinking with a relentless assurance in the possibilities life can hold. Hooper follows her wise and delightful Etta and Otto and Russel and James (2015) with an equally charismatic and haunting fable about the transformative power of hope.
Emma Hooper...sets out her store early on, with a lot of blank spaces, disjointed snippets of songs, ellipses and non sequiturs ... However, beneath the affected stylistics, Our Homesick Songs tells a relevant, strong story about the impact of environmental change on rural communities and the way the young generation can feel responsible for and angry at what their forebears have done ... After an interminable beginning, during which Hooper the storyteller disappears up the abandoned shipping channel of her impressionistic form, the pace quickens towards the end as the family embark on a plan to save themselves ... Hooper tries to evoke a specific Newfoundland landscape by using language to conjure vast empty spaces, whistling winds and the loneliness of fishing communities cut off from the world and from their past as (mostly Irish) immigrants. That’s a tall order for any writer, and Hooper, still young, does not quite nail it.
In the early 1990s, the villagers on a remote island off the coast of Newfoundland face a great challenge: as the fish disappear, so does their way of life ... In a simple, almost childlike style touched by magical realism, Hoope...offers a novel reading more like a fable or fairy tale, with many references to local folk music ... This aptly titled work is like a sweet, sad ballad about keeping home and family together and will appeal to a wide range of readers.
With stark prose, Hooper captures the desperation and difficulty of life on the edge of civilization while maintaining the foundation of tenderness as her characters take care of one another in the face of near-insurmountable struggle. Heartbreaking and empathetic, Hooper’s fine novel is a haunting evocation of changing times and the power of place.
Hooper...elegantly weaves into Finn and Cora’s story the magical tale of their parents’ courtship. Martha lost her parents to the icy waters. Aidan, too, lost his father early, because, as he has been told his whole life, all Connors are cheats ... This delicate elegy for a dying way of life crescendos into a love song binding family members across the waters.