The Innocents

The Innocents is a novel by Michael Crummey.

Michael Crummey

A brother and sister are orphaned in an isolated cove on Newfoundland's northern coastline. Their home is a stretch of rocky shore governed by the feral ocean, by a relentless pendulum of abundance and murderous scarcity. Still children with only the barest notion of the outside world, they have nothing but the family's boat and the little knowledge passed on haphazardly by their mother and father to keep them.

As they fight for their own survival through years of meagre catches and storms and ravaging illness, it is their fierce loyalty to each other that motivates and sustains them. But as seasons pass and they wade deeper into the mystery of their own natures, even that loyalty will be tested.

This novel is richly imagined and compulsively readable, a riveting story of hardship and survival, and an unflinching exploration of the bond between brother and sister. By turns electrifying and heartbreaking, it is a testament to the bounty and barbarity of the world, to the wonders and strangeness of our individual selves. (From Doubleday Canada

Michael Crummey is a poet and novelist from Newfoundland and Labrador. The Innocents is on the Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize shortlist.

Two of Crummey's novels have been shortlisted for the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction — Sweetland in 2014 and Galore in 2009.

The Innocents was shortlisted for the 2019 Scotiabank Giller Prizethe 2019 Rogers Writers' Trust Fiction Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction.

From the book

They were still youngsters that winter. They lost their baby sister before the first snowfall. Their mother laid the infant in a shallow trough beside the only other grave in the cove and she sang the lullaby she'd sung all her children to sleep with, which was as much as they had to offer of ceremony. The woman was deathly sick herself by then, coughing up clots of blood into her hands.

The ground was frozen solid when she died and even if their father had been well enough to shovel there was no digging a grave for her. He and Evered shifted the covering of reeds and alders away from the overturned boat and hauled it down to the landwash before they carried the corpse from the house. They set it in the boat along with half a dozen stones scavenged along the shore. Their father slumped against the gunwale to catch his breath.

From The Innocents by Michael Crummey ©2019. Published by Doubleday Canada.

What inspired Michael Crummey to write The Innocents

"There was one salient detail, which was that the sister was pregnant. And the clergyman got up on his high horse about that and assumed — probably quite rightly — that the brother was the father. That's why he was driven off by the brother. 

I do think childhood for all of us, to one extent or another, is about that appalling confusion.- Michael Crummey

"I immediately thought that there was a story there to tell and I immediately dismissed it because I didn't want to touch that with a 10-foot pole. But it has stayed with me. And I think the thing that made it stay with me was my sense of what an appalling circumstance those children would have found themselves in — to be orphaned in a place without any outside influences at all, and then having to try and discover who they were and how the world worked. 

"And I do think childhood for all of us, to one extent or another, is about that appalling confusion." 

Read more from his interview with The Sunday Edition.

Interviews with Michael Crummey

Michael Crummey talks to Shelagh Rogers on location about his 2019 Giller nominated book, The Innocents.
Little Dogs, big bark. Award-winning author and poet Michael Crummey crafts the stories of Newfoundland, of fathers and sons, and of the history that shapes us in his new poetry collection, Little Dogs: New and Selected.
Newfoundland writer Michael Crummey won the inaugural Writers' Trust Fellowship this week, pocketing $50,000 and a two-week residency at the Banff Centre. The jury called Crummey "a poet of tremendous skill and a novelist of truest heart." Angela Antle i

Michael Crummey: Newfoundland Sealing Disaster

10 years ago
Duration 1:23
St. John's writer reads his poem, Newfoundland Sealing Disaster

Other books by Michael Crummey