Sheilagh’s Brush


a novel by Maura Hanrahan

Print: 978-1-926708-09-6 – $22.95
ePUB: 978-1-926708-35-5 – $9.99
PDF: 978-1-771330-17-6 – $9.99

170 Pages
September 01, 2010

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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

Maura Hanrahan is the author, co-author, or editor of ten books in several genres, including creative non-fiction, history, etc. Her writing has won awards in Canada, Britain and the U.S. She is a member of the Sip’kop Mi’kmaq Band. For about 14 years, she has been a self-employed consultant on Aboriginal issues and has worked mostly with Aboriginal organizations on health, education, land claims, and cultural survival issues. She lives in St. John’s with her husband, the novelist Paul Butler. She has won several book awards including: 2007 Good Read Novel Competition: Honourable Distinction for Sheilagh’s Brush (unpublished novel); 2005 History and Heritage Award for Tsunami: The Newfoundland Tidal Wave Disaster; short-listed, Rogers Cable Newfoundland and Labrador Book Award for Non-fiction for Tsunami: The Newfoundland Tidal Wave Disaster; and short-listed, History and Heritage Award for The Doryman.

2 reviews for Sheilagh’s Brush

  1. InannaWebmaster

    “Dominion-era Rennie’s Bay, Newfoundland, is a town even the priest seems to have forgotten about. It is also a place where women live in a society as foreign to the men of the town as the Greek shores they visit. Maura Hanrahan, who returns to the historical vividness of her 2003 work, The Doryman, acts as anthropologist to this female society where men exist only on the margins. Sheilagh’s Brush follows the struggle between community life and individuality through two sisters. As they deal with disease, poverty, and the environment, Hanrahan offers an historian’s account without moralizing, leaving it to the reader to decide if there is a right and wrong way for women to be.”
    —Telegraph-Journal, Saint John, New Brunswick

  2. InannaWebmaster

    Weekend Arts Magazine, hosted by Angela Antle, CBC Radio One
    Weekend AM October 16-17, 2010 Interview with Maura Hanrahan, author of Sheilagh’s Brush

    Putting an Axe under a Bed, passing children through trees branches and ceasign to breastfeed at 9 months lest the milk become poison…those practises were in use in parts of Newfoundland well into the 20th century. That’s what Maura Hanrahan found out when she started to research reproductive health of outport women The research inspired her to write a novel she called Sheilagh’s Brush.

    Angela Antle of CBC Radio’s Weekend Arts Magazine (NL province-wide) featured an interview with Maura Hanrahan on Saturday, October 16, 2010. You can hear that interview on their website: <http://podcast.cbc.ca/mp3/nlwamgaloot_20101016_39735.mp3>.

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