Colour

Here is one reason why I admire Michael Crummey: he writes in colour.

Take The Wreckage. At heart this is the story of Sadie and Wish, two teenagers who meet in rural 1940s Newfoundland and are then separated by the second World War. Wish goes off to fight. Sadie moves to St. John's. The story has all the makings of white bread and no one could fault a writer for populating a novel set in 1940s Newfoundland with a homogeneous cast. But that is not Crummey's MO. There's a Japanese soldier, a point of view character who is empathetically drawn. And a whole mess of Lebanese people milling about the streets of St. John's (side note: this is how I learned that the Lebanese have been in Newfoundland for centuries).

In Sweetland, a novel that takes place almost entirely on a tiny island cast off  Newfoundland's shore, Crummey tows in a life raft of Tamil refugees. In Galore, there's another life raft, this one bearing a lone black survivor, a story that echoes the tale of Lanier Phillips.

My hunch is these are deliberate choices. Carefully thought out, purposeful decisions to show diversity in unexpected places. Because here is the thing: those Lebanese merchants in mid-century St. John's, the Tamils on the life boat, the sole black survivor of a disaster at sea, those are all based on true stories. Art, when it imitates life, is brilliant with colour.