A brother and sister in 19th century Newfoundland confront the limits of human endurance and their own capacity for loyalty and forgiveness in this tale of survival from the award-winning poet and storyteller.
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.
... 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.