One hundred years ago, this month, my favorite bay girl entered the world.
I've written about Little Nanny in earlier posts. To say that she had an impact on my life would be a serious understatement. She was strong. She loved unconditionally. And she was so unimpressed with wealth and status. The way to her heart? Be an honest, hard-working, family person. And if you found a way into her heart, you were richly rewarded. And I haven't even mentioned the cooking part, yet. Happy Birthday, Nanny. I love you and miss you.
Last week I had the opportunity to meet another bay girl in the fictional character of Kit Ryan. I have been anxiously awaiting the publication of Heather Smith's Baygirl since I first heard about its impending arrival last spring. And I wasn't disappointed. This gritty, realistic, coming-of-age story is about family and friendship; love, loss, and forgiveness.
Set in a Newfoundland outport on the eve of the 1992 Cod Moratorium, this YA novel follows the story of 16 year-old Kit and her family as they struggle with unemployment, displacement, and alcoholism. Kit has a tough life, and it's about to get a whole lot tougher. Leaving her friend Anne-Marie, and her refuge - her Nan, behind in Parsons Bay, Kit moves with her family to St. John's. The plan is to bunk in with her mother's brother until they get their feet on the ground. It seems, however, that bad times have befallen Kit's hip and young uncle, as well, and all does not go according to plan. In addition to the domestic upheaval that Kit endures, she also faces adversity from her new townie classmates. A gripping cast of characters helps Kit move beyond the initial angst, and when the unthinkable happens, she has a full supporting cast to carry her through.
Kit, herself, is such a likable character. She is strong-willed, sharp-tongued, and possesses one heck of a sense of humour. I have met this character before. Coincidence? I think the island breeds this type of feistiness. Regardless, Ms. Smith captures it perfectly. The language is also spot-on. Although a bit "salty" at times, it is this verisimilitude that has readers buying into the authenticity of the story.
Although I loved the characters, the language, the pacing of the story, and the narrative itself, I think it was the theme of hope and forgiveness that I appreciated the most. The details of the family's hardships are not sugar-coated by any means; yet, all is not bleak. Hope exists for Kit, and it comes at the hands of forgiveness.
And the cover art? Is anyone else blown away by the talent of Teresa Bubela, Steve Feltham, and Getty Images. Well done!
Smith, Heather. Baygirl. Victoria: Orca Book Publishers, 2013. 275 p. (pb)
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Historical Fiction
Audience: YA, Teen (subject matter - alcoholism, mild language)