Friday, 12 September 2014

Kit's Law

Author: Donna Morrissey
Genre: Historical Fiction, Canadian
Type: Paperback
Source: Local Public Library
Pages: 408
Publisher: Penguin Canada
First Published: 1999
First Line: "The walls inside the church in Haire's Hollow were sparkling clean up to the point where the A-shaped ceiling began.'

Book Description from GoodReadsIt is the Fifties in an isolated outport in Newfoundland. Nothing penetrates this antiquated existence, as television, telephones, cars, even roads, elude the villagers and the only visitors are fog-bound fishermen. Here, outside of Haire’s Hollow, lives 14-year old Kit Pitman with her mentally handicapped mother Josie — both women cared for and protected by the indomitable Lizzie, Kit’s grandmother. The three live a life of some hardship, but much love, punctuated by the change of seasons in the isolated gully where they live.

Then a tragic change in their circumstances brings back an old threat — that Josie be sent to an institution and Kit to an orphanage. Advancing this argument is the Reverend Ropson, who from the pulpit decries Josie as the “Gully Tramp.” Defending the women is Doc Hodgson, who brought Kit into the world and knows the secrets of her birth. An uneasy truce is forged, with the Reverend’s son Sid acting as spy and woodcutter, while village women supply food and gossip. Josie delights in Sid’s visits, and Kit grows to love him.

There is another menace in Haire’s Hollow — the notorious rapist and killer known as Shine. When Shine attacks Kit in a drunken rage, it sets off a chain of events that leads to further violence and a terrible revelation. Kit and Sid must decide which laws of God and man apply in their despairing world and how much misery they can bear.

Kit’s Law is a stunning debut written with the stark rawness of character and landscape of the Rock itself. It evokes the lyrical gifts of E. Annie Proulx, the emotional power of Wally Lamb, and the compelling storytelling of Ann-Marie MacDonald. At its centre is the innocence and determination of Kit herself, a young woman who experiences extremes of pain on the way to redemption. As she says: “It is better to sense nothing at all, to move through the world and glimpse it from a distance, then to split God’s gift in half and live in its underside, with no rays of light dispersing the darkness.”

My Review:  The fact that this book is set in a remote Newfoundland village in the 1950's caught my attention since I'm always on the lookout for new (or at least 'new to me') Canadian authors.  I found Morrissey's writing to be very engaging and lyrical as she vividly describes Newfoundland and its culture, unique dialect and small coastal town feel.

But it was an interesting premise regarding Kit's living situation and that kept me reading.  Kit, Josie and Grandma Lizzie's characters were well thought out and felt very believable.  So believable that there were a few times when I got frustrated with what Kit had to deal with on a daily basis with her mom, Josie.  It was a lot to bear for a teen and I could feel her frustration as well as her strong devotion to her family.

There are a fair number of secondary characters as we see what life is like in the small coastal village of Haire's Hollow.  I only wish the reader got to learn more about these unique characters - some of which, if I'm being honest, were just a tad too clichéd for my tastes.  It would have been great if the 'bad guy' had some redeeming quality or have a look into why the resident 'mean girl' is so mean (she reminded me a lot of the spoiled Nelly Oleson from Little House on the Prairie fame, an image I couldn't shake throughout the book).

There was one scene that had me nail biting/on the edge of my seat but unfortunately I saw the major plot twist from a mile away.  Even after I figured it out I was hoping for a red herring but that unfortunately never happened.  It was still a solid read but I would have loved to have had just one more twist.  After the plot twist was revealed the book felt a little jumbled and out of sorts with the ending being the weakest part of the book.

Overall, this was an enjoyable read with a wonderfully eastern Canadian feel to it.  The characters and location added a truly unique spin to the book.  I look forward to reading more from this author.

My Rating: 3.5/5 stars

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