Does anyone remember Emma Hooper’s Etta and Otto and Russell and James? Oh, I loved it. I was so thrilled to see her new novel – out mid-August – that I moved it clear to the top of my stack.
Our Homesick Songs reminded me of The Rathbones and also a little bit of The Light Between Oceans. It’s set in a small fishing village called Big Running that once was flooded with fish but has now run dry. The fish shortage has sent all of the town’s inhabitants away to find work; the town has slowly dwindled down to only 6 occupied houses among the dozens of deserted ones. In one home lives the Connor family – Martha and Aidan and their children Cora and Finn. In alternating chapters we get the story of Martha and Aidan’s courtship and the story of their present.
The Connors are all cheats; it’s widely known throughout the village and even to young Aidan himself. He vows never to fall in love. Sequestering himself out at sea, he sings to the fish all night long. His voice travels far over the water, to the other shore, where young Martha Murphy finds it and believes it to be the voice of a mermaid. She listens night after night and when she finally meets him, she knows he is the one just as she knows that all Connors are cheats. Fast-forward 20 years, the members of the Connor family are each struggling in their own ways to come to terms with the dissolution of their town, their family, their lives.
What I love about Emma Hooper are the little details that make her stories magic – Cora, sneaking into abandoned houses and redecorating them according to different nationalities (an Italian house, a Mexican house, etc.); Finn, trying his best to lure the fish back according to any old folklore he comes across; Martha with her finely knotted fishing nets. This is a slow novel, but a beautiful one.
Our Homesick Songs by Emma Hooper (Simon & Schuster | 9781501124488 | August 14, 2018)