Can a woman run a mill? Linda Little says yes in this beautiful historical novel
Although the themes explored in Linda Little’s latest novel Grist are well-worn in CanLit, the Nova Scotian author adds to the canon a beautifully written perspective from an isolated woman who survives a neglectful and abusive husband.
It’s the late 1800s when Penelope marries Ewan, who is obsessed with the minute details of his family-run mill. By page two, readers are already aware that he is “not a kind man.” When Ewan’s behaviour becomes more erratic, and he disappears for months at a time, Penelope is forced to run his business, while coping with a series of personal tragedies. As time passes, marked by season changes and the cycle of the mill, Penelope explores her tough inner strength in this first-person narrative.
Little shifts the story twice with chapters dedicated to Ewan’s story. His perspective builds reader empathy and keeps him from becoming a one-dimensional monster, yet it feels unnecessary as Penelope’s well-drawn inner thoughts and conflicts are what carry Grist to its satisfying conclusion.
by Linda Little
$20.95, paperback, 240 pp.
Roseway Publishing, March 2014