|Our Homesick Songs|
The Connors live in Big Running, Newfoundland where, for generations, people have lived by the ebb and flow of the cod fishery. The sea is their lifeblood. Emma Hooper masterfully depicts the culture of small town Newfoundland in Our Homesick Songs.
Parents Aidan and Martha can remember when fishing nets used to come up from the depths overflowing with fish, and when the village fishing boats were laden to the gills. They also remember the first time a net came up only half full. Now, it’s 1993 and all the fish are gone – completely. The town of Big Running has been slowly depleted until only six houses are still occupied.
Desperate to maintain their deep connection to home, Aidan and Martha come up with a plan to take turns working out of town. They go where everyone else does – to the oil patch in Alberta – convincing themselves that this family separation is their only hope.
But fourteen-year-old Cora and ten-year-old Finn feel each parent’s absence keenly. Each comes up with their own plan to save the family. Strong-headed Cora decides she must earn her own money in a way that will divide the family even further. But Finn, steeped in the magic of Big Running, decides he has no other choice but to call the fish back, and devises an elaborate scheme to do so.
This part of the story is interspersed with tales from the past. Hooper tells of Aidan and Martha in the 1970s as they meet and fall in love. Life in Big Running at that time is full in every way. There are plenty of people in town and still plenty of fish in the sea. No one can imagine that their robust way of life can ever end.
Contrast this with the yearning and desperation of the Connors in 1993, as they cling to a lifestyle that is quickly disappearing.
Our Homesick Songs is filled with the mysticism, stories and music of Newfoundland. Hooper’s writing is lyrical and poetic. But her biggest triumph is her depiction of a family that must make some very hard choices, but continues to love each other unconditionally.