Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Walsh (Sammy in the Sky, 2011) explores the ties that bound her own family despite death and desertion.
The author writes about the almost mythic heroism of her ancestors, tough, hard-drinking fishermen who had emigrated from Ireland to Marystown, Newfoundland. They battled fierce storms to put food on the table for their families and looked out for each other in this small community where most of the people who lived there were related. The author begins in August 1935, with the birth of her father in Brooklyn—her grandfather had come to the United States a decade earlier—which coincided with the death of more than 40 Marystown fisherman in a devastating hurricane. This is a complex tale that began for the author in 2002, when her father suggested that she write about the storm and revealed secrets about his own family history that he had found too painful to discuss before. When he was 11 years old, her father had abandoned his family, leaving his mother in dire poverty with two children to raise alone. The author learned that along with five sisters, she had American cousins whom she'd never met, and others living in Newfoundland. Walsh uses her journalistic skills to re-create the life of the Newfoundland fishing community before the gale; she recounts events during the storm and the struggle of the women and children who survived the tragedy. She and her father establish contact with his father's half-siblings and their relatives in Marystown, and she recognizes physical traits and mannerisms they hold in common. The eponymous storm provides the thread that holds the story together and serves as a metaphor for her father's stormy childhood.
A celebration of traditional family values and reconciliation.