I had the honour of reading (and endorsing … check out the front cover!) an advance copy of this novel before it hit the shelves. It’s a contemporary novel set in a small Newfoundland community, Paradise Bay, to which Prissy Montgomery returns as her marriage on the mainland falls apart. To her horror, Prissy learns that her mother has decided to cover up the “shame” of having a separated and maybe divorced daughter, by spreading the word that Prissy is widowed instead. She’s even gone so far as to put an obituary in the paper announcing the death of Prissy’s husband — so needless to say, when Prissy’s ex shows up in town, things get interesting!
This is not just Prissy’s story, but also the story of her mother, her brother, her teenaged son, and the two genuine “widows of Paradise Bay” — Prissy’s childhood best friend and a new friend, who are dealing with the untimely loss of their husbands in very different ways. It’s a funny novel about grief, in a way that I can best compare with Tina Chaulk’s A Few Kinds of Wrong — an apt comparison in another way, because Sooley, like Chaulk, writes about contemporary life in today’s Newfoundland in a way that is absolutely authentic and captures both the pace and concerns of modern life along with the things that make a Newfoundland community unique. In other words, it’s not the kind of book people are going to seek out just because they want a “Newfoundland book” — something about history, folklore, or the fishery — but simply because they want a good story that will make them care about the characters and keep turning pages till the story’s done. The fact that it’s set here in our place, by a talented (though ex-pat) Newfoundland writer, is just sheer bonus. This is Jill Sooley’s first novel; I certainly hope it’s not her last!!