Wednesday, August 14, 2013

River Thieves by Michael Crummey

Have you been devastated by a book? Has reading a good story about emotionally complex characters ever left you limp and wrung out like an old sponge? River Thieves by Canadian author Michael Crummey is such a powerful novel that it creates its own emotional momentum. It draws you in and doesn’t let go. And then it devastates you.

It is early 1800’s and the native Beothuk tribe of Newfoundland, Canada is on the verge of extinction. In fact they have become virtual people. They are fleeting shadows glimpsed out of the corner of the eye of John Peyton, a young white settler who lives with his father and their housekeeper, Cassie, at the edge of the Bay of Exploits where the sea and forest meet. 

Things in the Bay are torn and broken. The island is torn between the dying world of the Beothuk and the harsh, new exploitative economy of the white settlers. John is torn between the base existence of his father and the seductive but unreachable world of ideas and culture that Cassie represents. And David Buchan of the Royal Navy is torn between honestly investigating a massacre of settlers and his own role in a similar massacre of Beothuk people eight years earlier.

With a painstaking attention to detail about life in colonial Canada and an unblinking emotional honesty, River Thieves drags you along with the inevitability of a glacier grinding down rock along its path to the sea. Try River Thieves and you might be carried along too, and eventually devastated, as I was.

You can reserve River Thieves here.


  1. What a beautiful review! I recently was devastated by another book, The Story of Edgar Sawtelle, which drummed with the beat of inevitable doom. I held out hope until the end. Such books are hard to let go of.

  2. Thanks, Sheryl. Powerful writing sure does grab you, doesn't it.