Book Review: Anna From Away

Anna from Away is a book  you need to take your time with and savour the words in it. You need to slowly mull the words and thoughts over and become entranced in the sorrow of Anna and Murdock’s life (most especially Murdock). Also, the cold, spare and harsh landscape of Cape Breton seemingly force you to slow your reading as well. I found it was best read in front of a cozy, crackling fire.

It’s a novel of great sorrow and aching loss, but redemptive and new love and forgiveness as well.

Anna has fled California to the austere Cape to immerse and find herself in her art, following the confession from her husband that he is leaving her for a younger woman. Anna chooses Cape Breton based on a simple search and seeing pictures of the island. Alas, she has picked a bitter, cold, dark winter season to arrive and wonders when ever will spring arrive? Anna rents a house from a family that has long left the Cape, but also from this family with remaining members still inhabiting the island.

Red Murdock’s grandmother lived in the house at the end of his lane that Anna is now living in. Murdock is constantly aware of Anna’s presence and watches her wander and sketch on the beach.  However, Murdoch is struggling and is losing himself deeper and deeper and cannot overcome the sorrow and loss of his one true and great love Rosaire. Murdock is a man that so beautifully and achingly reflects on Rosaire, and with such pain and love, that I’m certain I fell in a love a little bit with him.

Could anyone describe the kind of absence he felt? It hollowed him out, a cavernous space, every day he teetered on the edge.

Tentatively, he begins to approach Anna, he is drawn to her. And Anna, as she struggles with the loneliness and heart ache over her husband’s betrayal, is slowly drawn to Murdoch.

All is not what it seems to be on the island however, and suspicious and violent activity begin to happen on and off. Anna comes upon a large bundle of pot which she hides in her rented house. When she experiences strange occurrences that she cannot brush aside, she enlists the help of Murdoch. Together they begin to slowly shed the darkness enveloping them, let go of their pasts and slowly open themselves up to each other.

When he’d last come upon Anna, suddenly around the turn of shore, he felt strongly the simple pleasure of her looks, complicated by an old desire, the thought of touching her. It had sneaked into him. Here, on this familiar beach, where everything had said Rosaire. He had let the feeling pass – it was not one he could keep, should keep. She was from away and would always be from away.

Anna from Away was a quiet and enjoyable read. MacDonald’s prose was quite lyrical at times and his shaping of the character of Murdoch was well worth the time spent reading. If you’re looking for a quiet, melancholy sort of read, stoke up a fire and settle in with Anna from Away, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.