WINNER OF THE 2011 IPPY BRONZE MEDAL FOR REGIONAL FICTION
Sheilagh’s Brush: spring equinox gale, prominent in Newfoundland culture and weather lore.
On the cusp of the Depression, Sheilagh Driscoll of isolated Rennie’s Bay nearly dies while giving birth prematurely to baby Leah. Sheilagh is attended by a traditional midwife, part Mi’kmaq, Mrs. Mary, as well as by Leah Clarke, a nurse-midwife from England. Baby Leah Mary survives but develops serious asthma, which requires treatment throughout her childhood. Traumatized by the birth, Sheilagh learns about age-old ways of preventing pregnancy. The result is an awakening that impacts on Sheila’s relationship with all the women around her, especially her younger sister Claire. || Informed by the occasional newspapers and magazines that make their way to Rennie’s Bay via sea-going schooners, Claire’s worldview contrasts sharply with Sheilagh’s. In contrast to Sheilagh’s acceptance of life in Rennie’s Bay, Claire reacts against it. Claire stumbles into a sexual relationship but sees relations with David—or any man—as a trap and tries to avoid him. She is not entirely successful and finds herself pregnant. Like her sister, she turns to Mrs. Mary for help.
“Sheilagh’s Brush is a deeply moving portrait of two Newfoundland sisters who face down work and weather and loss in order to finally embrace their lives. Maura Hanrahan writes powerfully of the pain and joy of motherhood and ultimately delivers a mighty portrait of women’s lives writ large across the blue of sea and sky. I read it in great gulps. ”
—Erica Eisdorfer, author of The Wet Nurse’s Tale
“Maura Hanrahan crafts the sisters’ story as if she were there herself, weaving an accomplished and authentic tale of resilience in an isolated fishing community that hears only faintly the distant rumblings of WWII, rumours of faraway lands, and a sense of the increasing possibilities for women’s lives. When Maura’s remarkable brush blows a gale across this book’s landscape, everything is somehow both eternally the same and yet forever changed. A must read. ”
—Dian Day, author of The Clock of Heaven