A whale comes ashore at the remote coastal town of Paradise Deep, Newfoundland, in the early 19th century. The people, who have been starving all winter, come out to scavenge what they can of the meat. When Devine’s Widow, an old Irish “wise woman,” cuts open the belly of the whale, a man falls out, pale as an albino, mute, but still alive. Although he stinks like a fish, the Devine clan gives him room in a shed and calls him Judah. Nevertheless, he is treated with dread and superstition until he goes out fishing one day with Colum Devine and they take a huge load of fish in waters that have been barren that season.
The Devines have been at odds with the powerful King-Me Sellers since he proposed marriage to a young Irish bondswoman years ago and she refused him rudely, then went off to marry Devine, practically the first young man she met. Their relationship was not improved years later when King-Me’s daughter Lizzy married Colum Devine.
When King-Me’s spite turns against Judah, the only way the Devines can save him is by marrying him to Mary Trephyna Devine, Colum and Lizzy’s daughter and King-Me’s granddaughter.
Michael Crummey’s multigenerational novel captures the relationships between these two families along with the history of the town, with all its eccentric characters, ghost stories, myths, and tall tales. The novel is fascinating, unusual, and beautifully written. I don’t usually enjoy magical realism, but in this novel it is handled so well that I accepted it and was engrossed in the story. Galore is probably unlike any novel you are going to read, although in its focus on a sea-going people and its occasional feel of a sea tale, it reminds me a bit of We, the Drowned by Carsten Jensen.