Fittingly, the children’s language is blunt and old-fashioned, an earth- and sea-engaged vernacular which deepens the novel’s mood of lives wrested from nature—stud tilt, rot oil, slutlamp, coopy, cuddy, yaffles, mollyfodge, dwy, bawn—potent words from a vanished way of being ... The big events in the novel are few, but are all the more momentous for that ... A terrible tension runs through the book. So much is felt by these young people, so little is tamed by language or blunted by experience. This is an extraordinary novel, emotionally precise, vivid in its portrayal of nature, and subtle in its exploration of the relationship between life and story.
While readers might be expecting a survival story—two children fighting for their lives against the elements—The Innocents is more complex, and much subtler, than that ... this willingness to resist the easy narrative path is one of The Innocents’ great strengths. It is also one of Crummey’s great strengths as a writer. Another is his facility—his gift—with language. Crummey is able to create sentences of considerable beauty and force without ever seeming to overstep himself, a complexity rooted in the emotional weight of the language and his comfort with the vernacular. The novel never reads as excessive; its beauty is restrained, weighted and often heartbreaking ... Crummey makes a virtue of the self-imposed limitations of the story—essentially two characters in a single setting—to explore the nature of what makes us who we are, what makes a family, and the sacrifices that are made in the name of love.
Similar to Crummey’s Sweetland as it delves into the minutiae of life on a northerly island, this novel can be tough going at times, but fans of narrative travel writing will appreciate Crummey’s descriptive flourishes. The relentless bleakness is alleviated by the cinematic depiction of the surrounding wilderness, with Crummey’s prose recalling that of Jim Crace in its strange, archaic terminology and sense of timelessness, and the conclusion is strangely moving.
... riveting ... Crummey has transformed this fragment into a richly fashioned story told with great sensitivity—one that is as credible as it is magical ... reminds us of all the reasons we read—to understand, to imagine, to find compassion and to witness the making of art.
... a deeply emotional and moving portrait of human desires, temperaments, and existence in the face of both mundane and extreme situations. Michael Crummey has fashioned a survival tale out of introspective musings and spellbinding settings, meshing both brother’s and sister’s interiority with the wildness and unpredictability of the landscape around them ... The beautiful language is what keeps the reader moving forward, since the daily tasks often repeat themselves and the danger of starvation loses its luster after too long as a threat ... To care about the plot – and whether or not Evered and Ada survive – the reader has to care about the characters themselves. And Crummey shines brightest here ... Most natural of the entire novel is the inevitable but perfectly paced erosion of innocence ... Crummey’s prose is compelling enough to pair with the languorous nature of the plot, and even though Evered and Ada’s fate becomes steadily more secure as they gain skill and knowledge of survival, there is an urgency to each page, each probe into the other’s psyche. Spending years with two characters with nothing but their daily tasks and the other’s company would falter in any other author’s hands, but Crummey explores much larger themes through these two youngsters’ experiences and development, ensuring The Innocents’ place as an unexpected period novel about survival and family.
The Book of Genesis meets 'Hansel and Gretel' by way of Flowers in the Attic ... the narrative is shaped and driven by the rhythms of the natural world: ice breaking up in the spring, the arrival of caplin and cod, and later in the year the abundance of berries ('a rare episode of plenty') on which the siblings gorge ... There is an unsettledness to The Innocents, which features an intriguing ambivalence toward both the ideas that drive it and narrative in general.
... harshly beautiful ... what begins as a gripping survival tale deepens into a psychological inquiry into intimacy, conflict and what it means to be alone together in the world ... Crummey’s vivid depictions of nature are attuned to the rhythms of seasonal harvest and evoke the characters’ profound isolation in remote Newfoundland ... The last scenes of The Innocents manage to both shock and satisfy, and will leave readers thinking about the story of Evered and Ava for a long time.
... engrossing and beautifully written ... a work of lyrical naturalism dressed as an allegory ... Some of the best scenes in the novel are its descriptions of failures, deprivations and frustrations ... Crummey movingly renders the furtive, helpless complexities of Ada and Evered’s incestuous explorations.
... a novel of innocence and hardship and what is intrinsically human ... A gifted writer, Crummey shows imagination and compassion for his young protagonists, and a care for the oddities of language specific to time and place ... deeply pained and enchanting, full of small joys and victories as well as the pressing multitude of aches and challenges that mere living offers to two babes alone in this fierce environment. This searing novel will keep readers engrossed in its harsh world long after its hopeful conclusion.
... poetic ... The Biblical parallels are obvious ... Throughout, Crummey brings to life the rhythmic roughness --- and raw beauty --- of Ada and Evered’s day-to-day lives ... Crummey crafts a gripping, heartfelt story out of these dramas both large and small, relying on the unique language of the place and era to transport readers to the past, and into the minds of his characters. The result is a work of both insight and grace ... The magic of The Innocents never dissipates.
Crummey details the siblings’ survival techniques with unshowy lyricism and an infectious sympathy for the toughness of their lives. Yet, as 'each indistinguishable day' passes...he doesn’t solve one obvious problem: how to write about monotony without being monotonous. You could argue that he triumphantly succeeds in his aim of depicting people with no concept of boredom — but the trouble is, of course, the reader is not so lucky ... Fortunately the novel perks up considerably over the final two thirds. In between the endless chores some other stuff happens, and quite a lot of it proves unexpectedly dramatic ... The most significant arrival of all, though, is adolescence. Crummey does a powerfully unsettling job of imagining how the onset of sexual feelings and self-consciousness would affect an isolated brother and sister who have never been prepared for what’s happening to them, and have nothing and nobody to draw on once it does. He also allows some neat touches of allegory to emerge naturally from the narrative without diminishing the singularity of Evered’s and Ada’s experience ... In the end, then, The Innocents does reward the reader’s patience — but there’s still no denying that a fair amount of patience is required.
Crummey...writes in a style consistent with the period. (Those tired of the usual phrases for lovemaking might try 'They two joined giblets.') But the book's central image—the traumatizing sight of naked dead bodies in the hold of a wrecked ship—shocks in a contemporary way. And Crummey's refusal to go where you might expect—the offbeat humor can catch you by surprise—provides page-turning pleasures. You can't wait to see what happens next. An unusual, gripping period novel from a much-honored Canadian writer.
In his fifth novel, Crummey...imparts another heartfelt, extraordinary perspective on survival ... Against the sensitive portrayal of how two naïfs handle their budding sexuality, these fortuitous encounters underscore Evered’s and Ada’s innocence about life and the larger world. Crummey delivers profound insight into how individuals grapple with the forces of nature, not only in the unpredictable environment, but in the mystifying interior of their temperaments, drives, and character. This story of how two guileless youngsters navigate life will have a deep emotional impact on its readers.