It’s clear from the first pages of Linda Abbott’s novel that danger is imminent. It’s 1948 in St. John’s, months before two Newfoundland referendums that would eventually see the region enter Canada’s confederation, and Henry Gibbs has been accepted to medical school in Toronto—a fact that upsets his father to no end.
Henry works at Hull Home, a private nursing home run by the pathologically stingy Isaac Hull. Henry’s girlfriend, Mary, also works there, and his grandmother is a resident. Without risking a spoiler, Isaac ignores repeated warnings about a defective stove, which causes a fatal fire. Abbott is sensitive in her depiction of the horrific event and its aftermath, while maintaining vivid, smoky details.
The Hull Home Fire is a challenge to classify. Readers looking for a conventional love story will enjoy Henry and Mary’s tumultuous but ultimately caring relationship. However, it may not be for those who want a nuanced sense of how Joey Smallwood’s politics divided communities, or how young people leaving The Rock for better lives affected those left behind.
The Hull Home Fire
by Linda Abbott
$19.95, paperback, 232 pp.
Flanker Press, October 2013