Grist made me cry...twice. One might be lead to believe that this is a negative thing, but in this case, it is evidence of the truly poignant nature of this book and the effect it had on me.
First, let me share the passage that brought on the tears first:
He brought me home my children in the kindest, warmest way. As I worked with my hands in flour I felt them near me, held close in sweet domesticity. I could have spoken their names aloud except for my fear of breaking the spell. But my heart relayed the messages--lay the table, Daisy, and fetch us some fresh butter from the pantry. Then a little boy's voice, Momma's made a pie. As clear as though it had been spoken, Hughie to Alex, as they filled the wood box two sticks at a time, their little arms embracing the chore. They would be six years old now and dreaming of great strength. Perhaps I would have little trousers to mend that evening--I fingered the cotton of my apron--buttons on little blue trousers with a pocket for treasures. I sprinkled a pinch of cinnamon over the sweetened apples and folded pastry over the top. Baking in the oven next to supper, the aromas blended, transporting me.
This passage illustrates the author's wonderful writing along with her skill with imagery, placing the reader in the character's shoes. This passage would effect anyone emotionally, but especially those of us who are mothers.
As I was reading, I was reminded of just how few rights women had even in the 19th century. Sure, a woman was allowed more independence than in the past, as arranged marriages were almost a thing of the past and women were more free to pursue careers as teachers, etc. However, if a woman made a choice of a husband...accepted his proposal and married him...she was stuck. If she later found out that she made a poor match, it wasn't so simple to walk out and file for divorce. Such was the case with Penelope, the stalwart and memorable main character of Grist. She finds herself in an almost unbearable situation with a husband who, though not physically abusive, is emotionally bankrupt and mentally abusive. And yet, she survives through all the heartache and loss. I so admired Penelope. Her story captivated me and had me rooting for her to find the happiness she deserved.
Grist is a fairly short novel at 232 pages, but it's an historical novel that packs a lot of punch. I can honestly say that it will be one of my top favorites read this year. I cannot recommend it highly enough. Read this book!
About the book
Publication Date: April 15, 2014
ISBN 13: 9781552665992
“This is the story of how you were loved,” Penelope MacLaughlin whispers to her granddaughter.
Penelope MacLaughlin marries a miller and gradually discovers he is not as she imagined. Nonetheless she remains determined to make the best of life at the lonely mill up the Gunn Brook as she struggles to build a home around her husband’s eccentricities. His increasing absence leaves Penelope to run the mill herself, providing her with a living but also destroying the people she loves most. Penelope struggles with loss and isolation, and suffers the gradual erosion of her sense of self. A series of betrayals leaves her with nothing but the mill and her determination to save her grandchildren from their disturbed father. While she can prepare her grandsons for independence, her granddaughter is too young and so receives the greater gift: the story that made them all.
Praise for Grist
“An epic story by a gifted writer. There are moments in Linda Little’s Grist that are breathtaking in both thought and lyricism.” — Donna Morrissey, author of The Deception of Livvy Higgs
“Linda Little lays bare the hard joys, grit and heartache of women’s lives in the rural Maritimes before and during the Great War. Her writing is exquisite. Gripping, gorgeously imagined and positively haunting, Grist is a tour de force—a novel not just to like but to love. I couldn’t put it down.” — Carol Bruneau, author of Glass Voices and Purple for Sky
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About the Author
Linda Little lives and writes in the north shore village of River John. Originally from the Ottawa Valley mill town of Hawkesbury, she lived in Kingston and St. John’s before moving to Nova Scotia in 1987.
Linda has two award-winning novels, Strong Hollow and Scotch River. She has published short stories in many reviews and anthologies, including The Antigonish Review, Descant, Matrix, The Journey Prize Anthology, and The Penguin Book of Short Stories by Canadian Women.
In addition to writing, Linda teaches at the Nova Scotia Agricultural College and is also involved with River John’s annual literary festival, Read by the Sea.
For more information visit Linda Little’s website.
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A copy of this book was sent to me in exchange for an honest review. I was not monetarily compensated for providing it.